Angioplasty is a procedure that treats atherosclerosis by opening clogged arteries in the heart. During this procedure, a small balloon is inserted to stretch open a clogged artery. A small metal coil called a stent can be combined with this procedure to keep the artery open.
Your doctor will recommend when this procedure may be appropriate for you. It is usually considered when you:
- are having an heart attack
- are healthy enough to have the procedure
- have frequent or severe chest pain not responding to medication
- have reduced blood flow to areas of your heart
This procedure improves blood flow to the heart, leading to lessened symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. This procedure may be repeated if necessary.
Risks and precautions
Coronary balloon angioplasty is usually a straightforward and safe procedure. However, there are some risks of complications or side effects, including:
- bleeding or bruising at the site where the balloon is inserted
- blood clots at the site of angioplasty
- damage to heart valve or blood vessel
- heart attack
- irregular heart beats
- kidney problems
- re-narrowing of the artery
It is important that you understand all the risks of complications and side effects of an angioplasty, and what you or your doctor can do to avoid them. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all your concerns.
Get immediate medical assistance if you experience any of the following symptoms after the angioplasty:
- bleeding or pain at the place where the catheter was inserted
- signs of infection such as fever or swelling, redness or discharge where the catheter was inserted
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- unusual weakness
Before the procedure
It is important that you fully understand what an angioplasty involves beforehand. Ask your doctor to explain the risks, benefits, and drawbacks of an angioplasty, and don't be shy to probe further until you are comfortable with your doctor's responses.
Your doctor will first conduct a special X-ray test with contrast dye called a coronary angiogram to determine where the blockage is. In addition, a blood test and an electrocardiogram may be performed.
You may not be able to eat or drink before the procedure; follow the timing that your doctor recommended. In general, people are advised to not eat for 8 hours before the procedure; however, you may be able to continue to drink clear liquids until 2 hours before the procedure.
If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you to stop taking any of these medications and products before the test/procedure. It is also important to tell them if you have allergies to certain medications or have certain medical conditions.
Plan to have someone drive you home after the angioplasty.