Coronary angioplasty, also called percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty or balloon angioplasty, is designed to restore the flow of blood through coronary arteries that have been narrowed or blocked by atherosclerotic plaques or blood clots.
When you arrive at the hospital, an intravenous line will be started, you will be placed on a heart monitor, and you will be given an oral or intravenous sedative to help you relax.
Most coronary angioplasty procedures last between thirty minutes and three hours.
The doctor numbs the skin in your groin area and inserts a needle into your femoral artery.
Once the needle is placed, a guide wire is passed through the needle and gently guided through the arterial system to the heart.
The needle will be withdrawn and exchanged for a small flexible tube called a sheath permitting access to your femoral artery.
At this point, you will be given a blood thinner to reduce the risk of blood clots.
Next, a soft, flexible catheter is slipped over the wire and threaded up to the heart.
The procedure is monitored using a continuous x-ray imaging devise a called a fluoroscope.
You may feel pressure as the wire and sheath are inserted through the groin and pushed through the artery, but you will not feel their movement inside of your arteries.
At this point, your doctor will remove the guide wire, position the tip of the catheter just inside the coronary artery to be treated, and inject a special dye.
The dye allows the fluoroscope to take x-ray images, called angiograms, of the arteries‚ interior.
Any blockages will be clearly identified as the arteries fill with dye.
You may feel flushed or slightly nauseated when the dye is injected
Once the blockage is identified, your doctor will insert a flexible guide wire into the artery and advance a balloon-tipped catheter over this wire and into position at the site of the blockage.
Rapid inflation and deflation of the small balloon pushes the vessel wall out, reestablishing blood flow through the artery.
You may feel some chest pain while this is happening.
The same procedure is repeated for each blockage being treated.
Afterwards, your doctor will withdraw the deflated balloon and catheter from your arteries.
Some patients will receive a coronary stent, which is a small tube made of wire mesh designed to prop open the artery once it has been treated.
A collapsed stent is placed over the deflated balloon as it is moved into position.
When the balloon is inflated, the stent expands and locks into place.
After the balloon and catheter are withdrawn, the stent remains behind to hold the artery open permanently.
After your procedure, a pressure bandage will be applied over the femoral artery to prevent bleeding.
You will need to lie on your back for several hours during which time you will be checked periodically for any signs of bleeding or chest pain.
You may either be discharged home on the same day or after an overnight stay in the hospital.