What is Angioplasty? A Comprehensive Guide to the Procedure

Angioplasty is a procedure that helps to widen blood vessels that have become narrow or blocked. It’s commonly used to treat coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, and the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries (known as atherosclerosis). With these types of blockages, blood cannot flow properly, and this can result in a heart attack or other serious problems.

Fortunately, angioplasty is an effective treatment for these conditions and has been proven to reduce the risk of a future heart attack. If you’re interested in learning more about what angioplasty is and how it can help you, this article will give you all the details you need.

What is Angioplasty?

Angioplasty is a procedure that widens narrow or blocked blood vessels. There are many different types of angioplasty procedures, and each is used to treat a specific condition. During an angioplasty, a doctor inserts a small, flexible tube called a catheter into your blood vessels via an insertion site in your arm or leg. The catheter is pushed to the area of the blockage, where a balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated to expand the vessel and open the blockage.

A stent (a small mesh tube) may then be inserted to keep the vessel open. A coronary angioplasty is performed to treat coronary artery disease when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed due to the buildup of fatty plaque. Peripheral angioplasty is used to treat narrowed arteries in the leg.

How does Angioplasty Work?

During angioplasty, a small balloon is placed at the site of the narrowed blood vessel and then inflated to widen the vessel. In most cases, the balloon is deflated and removed from the vessel. In some cases, the balloon is left in place, and a tiny, expandable wire mesh tube (called a stent) is placed to keep the vessel open. In some cases, a stent is placed at the site of the procedure to keep the vessel open.

Why is Angioplasty Performed?

A number of different health conditions can lead to blood vessel blockages. Atherosclerosis and other forms of vascular disease are the most common causes of blood vessel blockages, but blood clots and certain types of tumors can also cause blood vessels to become blocked. Angioplasty and other types of vascular procedures are often used to treat vascular diseases caused by blood vessel blockages such as: 

  • Closed-off arteries in the legs and arms 
  • A narrowed artery in the heart 
  • A blood clot in the heart’s arteries 
  • A blood vessel that has been cut off because of a tumor

Potential Risks of Angioplasty

The most common risks associated with angioplasty include: 

Bleeding: In rare cases, blood vessels may bleed after the procedure. If this happens, the doctor may need to stop the bleeding by using a small plastic clip or a drug called heparin. 

Infection: A very small percentage of patients develop a bacterial infection after the procedure. 

Thrombosis: During surgery, the blood flow to your legs may be temporarily stopped. This may increase the risk of blood clots

Stent thrombosis: A stent can become blocked by blood clots, which are called thrombosis. This is a rare complication that can cause a heart attack or stroke. 

Stroke: In rare cases, the balloon or deflated balloon can accidentally tear a blood vessel, causing blood to leak into the surrounding brain tissue. If this happens, it is called a tear-out stroke. 

Endocarditis: This is an infection that is only seen in patients who have a heart valve that was replaced. In very rare cases, the procedure can cause heart valve damage, which increases the risk of infection

Angina: In rare cases, angioplasty can cause a temporary increase in chest pain for patients who have coronary artery disease.

Side Effects of Angioplasty

Most side effects are minor and can be treated with at-home care. These include: 

  • Discomfort at the insertion site 
  • Discomfort during the procedure 
  • Discomfort after the procedure 
  • Heartburn 
  • Bleeding 
  • Infection 
  • Stiffness 
  • Bruising 
  • Swelling 
  • Soreness 
  • Discharge 
  • Shortness of breath 

Fever Other side effects are less common and may require additional treatment. These include:

  • Heart rhythm problems 
  • Blood clot 
  • Heart valve damage 
  • Blockage in another blood vessel 
  • Heart attack 
  • Stroke

Bottom Line: Angioplasty Procedure

Angioplasty is a procedure that is used to treat a number of conditions related to blood flow blockage in the heart and legs. Angioplasty involves placing a small balloon at the site of the blockage and inflating the balloon to open the vessel.

Angioplasty is a common treatment used to treat blood flow blockages in the heart and legs. It can be performed under conscious sedation or general anesthesia, depending on the patient and the procedure.


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