Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion before deciding on angioplasty.

Who performs angioplasty?

The following specialists perform angioplasty: 

  • Cardiac surgeons specialize in the surgical treatment of conditions of the heart and its blood vessels. Cardiac surgeons may also be known as cardiothoracic surgeons.
  • Cardiologists and interventional cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating the heart and its blood vessels using catheter procedures and imaging techniques.
  • Nephrologists specialize in diagnosing and treating kidney diseases.
  • Vascular and interventional radiologists specialize in the treatment of blood vessel diseases and other conditions using catheter procedures and imaging techniques.
  • Vascular surgeons specialize in the surgical treatment of diseases and conditions of the lymphatic system and blood vessels outside the heart and brain.

How is an angioplasty performed?

Your angioplasty will be performed in a hospital. The procedure takes one to three hours and generally includes these steps:

  1. You dress in a patient gown and lie on a procedure table.
  2. Your team inserts an IV to provide fluids and medications.
  3. Your team attaches devices to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure.
  4. Blood tests are done to check kidney function and blood clotting.
  5. You receive IV medication (a light sedative) to make you drowsy and relaxed. You may receive deeper sedation or anesthesia through an intravenous (IV) line. In this case, you are more relaxed and unaware of the procedure and may not remember it. 
  6. You may receive medication to prevent blood clots from forming in your arteries during the procedure. You may also get medications to prevent spasms in your arteries during the procedure.
  7. Your doctor determines the location to insert the catheter. The area is shaved, cleaned, and numbed. Then your doctor makes a small incision.
  8. Your doctor inserts a catheter and guide wire through the incision and feeds it into the diseased blood vessel. X-rays help guide the wire to the exact location.
  9. Your doctor injects a contrast agent through the catheter to help improve the quality of the X-ray images.
  10. Your doctor  opens or widens the artery using X-ray guidance. Your doctor may place a stent to keep the artery open. 
  11. When the procedure is complete, the team may take more X-rays to confirm that blood is flowing as expected. 
  12. Your doctor removes the catheter and closes the small catheter site.

Will I feel pain?

Your comfort and relaxation is important to you and your care team. You may feel a pinch or pin prick pain during the IV placement and brief stinging during numbing of the catheter insertion area with a local anesthetic. You may also feel pressure as your doctor makes the incision and inserts the catheter. It is common to feel some discomfort when the balloon is inflated to open your artery. 

You will receive enough sedative medications to keep you relaxed and comfortable. Tell your doctor or care team if you are uncomfortable.

What are the risks and potential complications of angioplasty?  

As with all procedures, angioplasty involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications of angioplasty are uncommon but can occur during the procedure or recovery. 

Risks and potential complications of angioplasty include: 

  • Adverse reaction or problems related to sedation or medications, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots within your arteries
  • Damage to an artery from the catheter or balloon
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation, which may be harmful in excessive doses
  • Heart attack
  • Infection
  • Kidney injury from the contrast agent, especially if you already have kidney problems
  • Recurrence of artery narrowing or blockage
  • Stroke
  • Sudden vessel occlusion. This is a total blockage of the artery at the site of the angioplasty. Sudden vessel occlusion is a rare complication that typically occurs within 24 hours of angioplasty. It requires immediate medical attention.