Coronary (heart) angioplasty opens narrow or clogged arteries and restores blood flow to the heart muscle. Usually, a stent is inserted to keep the artery open. A stent is a small, thin metallic tube inserted into the artery.
What to expect
Angioplasty is done in the hospital's cardiac cath lab. You will lay on a table and will be sedated but remain awake. During the procedure, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is threaded through a blood vessel, usually near the groin, to the affected artery. A small amount of dye is injected through the catheter to help your doctor look at the blockage on X-ray images called angiograms. Once in place, a small balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated to press the plaque buildup against the artery wall and restore blood flow. If you have other blockages, the process will be repeated.
Doctors may use angioplasty to improve symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain. The procedure also can reduce heart muscle damage caused by a heart attack.Angioplasty is sometimes performed as an emergency treatment. If it isn't an emergency, you will meet with your cardiologist in advance. Angioplasty takes 1–2 hours, but you may need to stay in the hospital overnight. Your doctor may advise you to not drive for a certain amount of time.
You will probably go home the day after the procedure. Your doctor will provide instructions to follow at home and prescribe medicine to help prevent blood clots from forming.
Most people recover from angioplasty and return to work within a week of leaving the hospital.
Your doctor will want to check your progress after you leave the hospital. During the follow-up visit, your doctor will examine you, make changes to your medicines (if needed), do any necessary tests, and check your overall recovery.
For more on angioplasty, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.