Health Encyclopedia:


Coronary Angioplasty

Your healthcare team will talk to you about your heart problem and explain how angioplasty can help. Angioplasty relieves symptoms of coronary artery disease by improving blood flow to your heart. Chest pain or angina can be caused by poor blood flow through a narrow or blocked artery that would normally supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. Not all blockages can be fixed by coronary angioplasty alone. You may need other treatments including medicines, surgery, or coronary stents to treat your coronary artery disease.  A heart specialist called an interventional cardiologist does the angioplasty procedure. He or she has specialized training in using the equipment and in doing the procedure as safely as possible.


Cross-section of artery showing balloon angioplasty.
The balloon compresses the plaque against the artery wall.

Cross-section of artery with plaque showing compressed plaque after balloon angioplasty.
Blood flow to the heart muscle increases.


During the procedure

  • A member of the team will numb the skin at the insertion site (usually the groin) with a local anesthetic. Next, your doctor will make a  needle puncture to insert the catheter. 

  • Your doctor will insert a guide wire through the guiding catheter (a thin, flexible tube) and move it to the narrow spot in your heart artery. Your doctor tracks its movement on an angiogram, a special kind of X-ray.

  • Your doctor will insert a balloon-tipped catheter through the guiding catheter and thread it over the guide wire. He or she will position it at the narrow part of the artery.

  • Next, he or she will inflate and deflate the balloon several times to press the plaque against the artery wall. You may feel angina (chest pain) when the balloon is inflated. Tell your doctor if you do.

  • Finally, your doctor deflates the balloon and removes the catheters and guide wire. The artery is now open, and blood flow to the heart muscle increases.

After the procedure

  • A member of the healthcare team will tell you how long to lie down and keep the insertion site still. The amount of time may depend on whether a closure device such as a stitch or collagen plug was used to close the opening that was made in your artery. The time you must be still may be shorter if one of these devices was used. The amount of time will also depend on if there is any bleeding at the artery site.

  • A nurse will check the insertion site and your blood pressure. Before going home, you may have a chest X-ray and other tests.

  • You usually stay in the hospital for several hours or overnight.

When to call your healthcare provider

Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • You have angina (chest pain)

  • The insertion site has pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or drainage

  • You have severe pain, coldness, or a bluish color in the leg or arm that held the catheter

  • You have blood in your urine, black or tarry stools, or any other kind of bleeding

  • You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

Online Medical Reviewer: Gandelman, Glenn, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Snyder, Mandy, APRN
Last Review Date: 9/26/2016
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