Angioplasty

Angioplasty is a procedure done to open a partially blocked blood vessel so that blood can flow through it more easily. It is most often done on arteries that deliver blood to the heart (coronary arteries) when they are narrowed by plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) or blood clots.

During the angioplasty procedure, a thin flexible tube (catheter) is inserted through an artery in the groin or arm and carefully guided into the artery that is narrowed. Once the tube reaches the narrowed artery, a small balloon at the end of the tube is inflated. The balloon may remain inflated from 20 seconds to 3 minutes. The pressure from the inflated balloon presses fat and calcium deposits (plaque) against the wall of the artery to improve blood flow.

Once the fat and calcium buildup is compressed, a small, expandable wire-mesh tube called a stent is sometimes inserted into the artery to hold it open. Reclosure (restenosis) of the artery is less likely to occur after angioplasty with stenting than after angioplasty alone.

Last Updated: May 29, 2008

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology & Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition

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