Angioplasty is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure used in patients whose arteries have become blocked or clogged with sticky plaque, usually as a result of consuming a diet high in cholesterol or unhealthy fats (a condition called atherosclerosis). Angioplasty uses special techniques to help compress or break up plaque deposits along artery walls so blood flow can be restored. In most cases, angioplasty is performed with a second procedure called stenting, which uses tiny meshwork stents or supports to help keep the affected area of the vessel open once plaque has been removed or compressed. Depending on the severity of the blockage, angioplasty can be used to help patients avoid the need for a more invasive procedure like bypass surgery.
Angioplasty uses a tiny incision into a major artery, usually located in the groin but sometimes in the neck or under the arm. A special flexible tube called a catheter is gently inserted through the incision and into the artery, then carefully advanced to the area of blockage. Imaging techniques are used to monitor the advancement of the catheter to ensure it reaches the target area successfully. Once the catheter reaches the blocked area, a tiny balloon is deployed from the tip of the catheter and then inflated. The pressure of the balloon compresses the plaque against the sides of the arteries so the narrowed area is widened to accommodate blood flow. Once the compression is complete, the balloon will be deflated and a stent may be deployed and expanded to support the artery walls. Some types of angioplasty use tiny instruments to break apart the plaque deposits instead of using a balloon to compress them.
Angioplasty usually requires a one-night hospital stay to ensure the incision site heals properly. Once home, you'll need to avoid driving and certain other activities for a few days to support healing.