Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting

Coronary angioplasty and stenting are procedures used to open up blood vessels in your heart that may be clogged by plaque. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium and other debris. It can build up on the walls of your arteries, eventually narrowing the inside of the blood vessel.

Angioplasty and stenting are often used to treat a heart attack. Heart attacks can happen when a clogged artery partly or totally stops blood flow in a coronary artery. Coronary angioplasty and stenting may also be done during a cardiac catheterization procedure if blockages are found.

Angioplasty is sometimes called percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI. It is also called percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, or PTCA.

Before the procedure

If you need an angioplasty in an emergency, such as a heart attack, you won't have much time to prepare for the procedure. In other cases, you'll know in advance.

If you're a woman, be sure to tell your health care provider if you are pregnant or might be pregnant. Tell your health care provider about all of the medications and supplements you take, if you have any allergies, if you've ever had an allergic reaction to iodine or sensitivity to metals, it's especially important to tell your provider.

Your provider will explain what happens during the procedure. He or she will also talk with you about any risks or complications that may happen. You'll be asked to sign a consent form that gives your health care provider permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if anything is not clear.

You'll usually need to spend at least one night in the hospital after having an angioplasty and stenting.

What to expect

For this procedure, you'll be asked to change into a hospital gown and be taken to a special room in the hospital called the "cath lab." There, you'll lie on a table, and be given IV medication to help you relax.

You'll be awake but very drowsy. You may even fall asleep. Your provider will numb the place on your body where the catheter will be inserted, but you may feel some discomfort.

Your provider will insert a small, thin tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in your leg or arm. He or she will use X-rays to help guide the catheter through the blood vessels to your heart. A dye, or contrast agent, may be injected into your blood vessels to better show the narrowed area on the X-ray.

At the tip of the catheter is a small balloon. When the balloon is inflated, it flattens the plaque against the artery wall. The balloon may need to be inflated several times before blood can flow freely again.

Your provider may also place a small mesh tube made of metal or plastic in your blood vessel. This is called stenting. The stent is wrapped around the balloon on the end of the catheter. Once the catheter is in the right place, your provider inflates the balloon. This expands the stent. It is left in place to hold your blood vessel open. Your provider may use more than one stent, depending on how many blockages you have in your heart.

If the blockage in your artery is small, your provider may simply inflate the balloon without a stent to open the blockage.

The procedure may take as little as thirty minutes, but can take several hours.

After the procedure

After your provider removes the catheter, you'll go to a recovery room. Your recovery time will vary, depending on your health and how serious your heart disease is. Follow your health care provider's instructions.

You may need to have further tests or procedures.

Things to remember

Coronary angioplasty and stenting can help find and treat problems with the blood vessels in your heart.
Your provider may place a mesh tube into vessels in your heart to help maintain normal blood flow.
This procedure is common and is usually effective. However, complications may occur.

What we have learned

Coronary angioplasty and stenting treats problems with blood flow in the arteries that feed your heart. True or False? The answer is true Coronary angioplasty helps open and support the narrowed artery.

Coronary angioplasty and stenting can be used as an emergency treatment for a heart attack. True or False? The answer is true.  Heart attacks can happen when a clogged artery partly or totally stops blood flow in a coronary artery.