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Angioplasty & Stents

Angioplasty & Stents

What is Angioplasty

Angioplasty is a procedure used to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. These blood vessels are called the coronary arteries. Arteries can become narrowed or blocked by deposits called plaque. Plaque is made up of fat and cholesterol that builds up on the inside of the artery walls.

Angioplasty may be used to treat:

  • Blockage in a coronary artery during or after a heart attack
  • Blockage of one or more coronary arteries that puts you at risk for a heart attack
  • Persistent chest pain (angina) that medicines do not control

How Angioplasty is Performed

Your doctor will insert a flexible tube (catheter) through a surgical cut into an artery. Sometimes the catheter will be placed in your arm or wrist. You will be awake during the procedure. You might receive pain medicine and/or blood thinning medicine before getting started.

The doctor will use live X-ray pictures to carefully guide the catheter up into your heart and arteries. Dye will be injected into your body to highlight blood flow through the arteries. This helps the doctor see any blockages in the blood vessels that lead to your heart.

A guide wire is moved into and across the blockage. A balloon catheter is pushed over the guide wire and into the blockage. The balloon on the end is blown up (inflated). This opens the blocked vessel and restores proper blood flow to the heart.

Is a Stent Needed?

A coronary artery stent is a small, metal mesh tube that expands inside a coronary artery. A stent is often placed during or immediately after angioplasty. It helps prevent the artery from closing up again. Your cardiologist will determine whether you need a stent that releases medicine to keep the artery from blocking again.