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Balloon Angioplasty

Angioplasty is used to treat the buildup of fatty plaques in your heart's blood vessels. This buildup is a type of heart disease known as atherosclerosis.

Balloon angioplasty uses a balloon attached to a catheter that's inserted into an artery. At the place where deposits of plaque have closed off or narrowed the channel for blood flow, the balloon is inflated.

If the blockage is not major, it may be possible to correct the problem by inflating the balloon several times. This will compact the plaque against the wall, widening the passage and letting blood flow through. It's common for a stent to be put into the artery to keep it open before the balloon is deflated.

Balloon angioplasty can be used to open narrowed vessels in many parts of your body.

Why choose Presbyterian for your balloon angioplasty?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has a skilled vascular care team who can provide a wide range of services from diagnosis to treatment. Their surgeons are trained in many different techniques and procedures, many of which can provide you with a shorter recovery period and less hospital time.

Who is eligible for a balloon angioplasty?

Angioplasty may be a treatment option for you if you have:

  • Chest pain (angina) that is worsening.

  • Tried medications or lifestyle changes but these have not improved your heart health.

  • Had a heart attack. Angioplasty can quickly open a blocked artery, reducing damage to your heart.

Depending on the extent of your heart disease and your overall health, your doctor may determine that coronary artery bypass surgery is a better option than angioplasty for you.

What conditions can be treated with a balloon angioplasty?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) affects more than 15 million Americans, making it the most common form of heart disease. CAD most often results from atherosclerosis, which happens when a waxy substance forms inside the arteries that supply blood to your heart. As the plaque builds up, the artery narrows, making it more difficult for blood to flow to the heart.

As the blockage gets worse, blood flow to the heart slows and a condition called angina may develop. In time, the narrowed or blocked artery can lead to a heart attack.

How do I prepare for a balloon angioplasty?

Patients are usually told not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the procedure. If you have diabetes, you should talk to your doctor about your food and insulin intake, because not eating can affect your blood sugar levels.

Talk to your doctor about any medicines (prescription, over-the-counter, or supplements) that you are taking. This is especially important if you are taking blood-thinning medicines or anti-platelet medicines. You will most likely have blood tests, an electrocardiogram, and a chest x-ray taken before the procedure.

What should I expect during my balloon angioplasty?

  • You will be given an anesthetic medicine with a needle to numb the area around where the catheter will be inserted and then a small incision will be made in the skin. Doctors usually put the catheter into an artery in your leg, arm, or wrist. You should not feel pain.

  • Doctors gently thread the catheter through the artery and into your heart. Once the catheter reaches the blocked artery, a harmless dye is injected, and the doctor will take a picture of the coronary arteries, called an angiogram.

  • Once doctors know the location of the blockage, they thread a balloon-tipped catheter to the blockage. When this catheter reaches the blockage, the balloon is inflated and presses against the plaque, compressing it against the artery wall. The catheter, guidewire, and deflated balloon are then removed.

  • If doctors are placing a stent in the artery, the stent is put at the tip of the catheter, over the balloon. The balloon is inflated, expanding the stent. Once the stent is open, the balloon is deflated.

  • Firm pressure will be applied to the site where the catheter was inserted to stop any bleeding. You will also be bandaged.

  • The procedure usually takes about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours, and most patients will spend the night in the hospital.

How do I care for myself after my balloon angioplasty?

After you leave the hospital, you should drink plenty of fluids and avoid driving, bathing, and smoking for 1 or 2 days after the procedure. You should also avoid standing or walking for long periods for at least 2 days after the procedure. If you received a stent, you should avoid vigorous exercise for 30 days.

You will likely need to take aspirin every day for the rest of your life. If you had a stent placed, you may need to take a blood-thinning medicine or antiplatelet therapy for a year or longer. Your doctor will tell you how and when to take these medicines.

About a third of patients who have balloon angioplasty are at risk of more blockages in the future, especially the treated area. This is called restenosis. Restenosis usually happens within 6 months after balloon angioplasty. Arteries that have stents can re-close, as well. If restenosis occurs, patients may need to have another balloon angioplasty or stent procedure.