Angioplasty is a procedure designed to restore normal blood flow through clogged or blocked arteries, which can lead to heart attack, stroke and other serious cardiovascular problems. During angioplasty a catheter, a thin tube, is threaded through a blood vessel to the site of a blockage. The catheter has a balloon on its tip that is expanded to push the plaque, the fatty substance that is causing the blockage, out of the way. The goal is to reopen the blood vessel to as close to a normal diameter as possible, allowing blood to flow freely. New, innovative angioplasty techniques are making the procedure available to ever more patients as a less invasive alternative to surgery.
In the case of a heart attack in progress, angioplasty can save your life. If you are having a heart attack and are able to receive angioplasty soon enough, it can stop the heart attack. If you are not having a heart attack but suffer from ongoing chest pain and other uncomfortable symptoms due to a blockage in an artery, angioplasty can open the blockage and relieve your symptoms, helping you get back to your normal life as quickly as possible.
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© This narrated animation shows how balloon angioplasty opens blocked blood vessels. 2011 Boston Scientific Corporation or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Boston Scientific Corporation.
Angioplasty has revolutionized heart attack treatment and is also being applied to treatment for blockages in the arteries leading to the brain (stroke), kidneys (renal artery disease), and arms and legs (peripheral artery disease). You will hear angioplasty referred to as an interventional procedure, which is a way of distinguishing it from surgery. While surgeries require an incision in the skin, interventional procedures are those conducted through a small puncture site in the skin with treatments delivered via a catheter. Rather than correcting blocked arteries through procedures such as open heart bypass surgery, your physician works within the artery.
While angioplasty may not be recommended for everyone, in cases where it is appropriate, it is less invasive than surgery, carries fewer risks and offers a faster patient recovery time. Visit Your Angioplasty and Stenting Procedure for detailed information about angioplasty for heart disease treatment. To find out more about treatment for stroke, peripheral artery disease and renal artery disease, visit Conditions Treated by Angioplasty and Stenting.