Balloon angioplasty is used to open an area of arterial blockage—at any site in the body, including the lower legs, heart or carotid artery in the neck—with the help of a catheter that has a small, inflatable sausage-shaped balloon at its tip.
Before the procedure begins in the cath lab, your physician will connect you to a monitor that shows your heart rate and blood pressure. During the procedure, your physician will likely talk with you and may instruct you to squeeze a small toy or ball so that he or she can monitor your brain function. While some physicians may perform the procedure under general anesthesia, in most instances, the procedure is performed while you are awake and alert.
Your physician inserts a long, thin tube, called a catheter, with an attached balloon into a small incision or puncture over an artery in your arm or groin. Your physician guides the catheter to the blockage site using live x-ray imaging. You will not feel the catheters as they move through your arteries because there are no nerve endings inside your arteries.
At the blockage site, your physician inflates and deflates the angioplasty balloon to flatten the plaque and widen the space where the blood flows through. After the artery is open, your physician then removes the catheter with the balloon attached.
If you are having a stent inserted, a compressed stent will be guided to the same area where your blockage existed. Your physician will remove the stent-carrying catheter and the stent will remain permanently in the artery.
Life after balloon angioplasty
You may stay in the hospital overnight after the procedure. You’ll receive instructions on wound care for the puncture site where the catheter was inserted, prescriptions and directions for their use, advice about resuming normal activities, and you will schedule your post-surgical appointment.
Balloon angioplasty reduces or eliminates recurrent pain when blockage is in the legs, increases the quality of life and reduces other complications of the disease. Since it is much less invasive than traditional surgery, it can be repeated in the future even in the same artery—but you and your doctor will work together to prevent another intervention.
You can increase your chances of good health in the years following your operation if you control or eliminate additional risk factors, such as smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity—and work with your Harrison vascular specialists.