What is an Angioplasty?
Angioplasty is a minimally-invasive procedure that is performed to observe and treat blocked arteries. The arteries in the body deliver nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to all of the tissues and organs. A build-up of calcium, cholesterol, fat, and other blood substances can cause one or more arteries to become narrow or blocked.
This is referred to as plaque. Over time, arterial plaque can harden in the arteries, making it difficult for blood to pass through with its flow of oxygenated blood.
A lack of healthy blood circulation to different parts of the body can lead to life-threatening events like heart attack or stroke. Angioplasty helps reduce the risk of serious outcomes by conservatively opening the narrowed or blocked arteries.
What Are the Benefits of an Angioplasty Procedure?
Angioplasty is a conservative, non-surgical procedure, so has relatively minimal risk. The risks associated with angioplasty are much lower than open surgery. Patients usually do not need to stay in the hospital to have the angioplasty procedure because they are not put under general anesthesia. This minimizes costs and risks. Angioplasty is performed through a tiny incision that does not pose much risk of scarring. Patients can resume their normal activities within a few days to a week after their procedure.
Who Are the Ideal Candidates for an Angioplasty Procedure?
This procedure is most commonly recommended for people who have had a heart attack. However, angioplasty may be advisable for other situations. These include:
- The patient has been diagnosed with coronary artery disease or narrowing of the arteries. In this case, angioplasty may be a preventative measure against arterial blockage.
- The patient has hardened or narrowed arteries as a result of atherosclerosis.
- The patient has had an abnormal stress test result.
- Doctors have found peripheral artery disease, which is narrowing of the blood vessels in the limbs.
- Arteries in the kidneys have narrowed as a result of high blood pressure.
- The patient has narrowing veins in the legs, arms, torso, neck, or chest.
- Reduced blood flow to the heart is causing chest pain.
- Reduced blood flow to the brain caused by carotid artery stenosis.
Angioplasty is a necessary procedure that is performed in a variety of situations that involve narrowed or blocked arteries or reduced blood flow to the heart or brain. Patients with any condition involving these types of blockages are usually good candidates for angioplasty.
How is an Angioplasty Procedure Performed?
An angioplasty may be performed as an outpatient procedure or part of a broader scope of testing after a patient has been admitted to the hospital. In the treatment room, the patient receives sedative medication through an IV inserted into a vein in the arm. The sedative helps the patient relax but usually does not cause them to fall asleep.
The procedure involves threading a catheter, a thin tube, through a small incision in the arm or leg. The catheter is moved to the area of blockage through an artery in the selected limb. Imaging guidance helps the provider identify the area of narrowing or blockage. Here, the provider positions the catheter in a way that the small balloon at its tip can compress the plaque that has formed in the narrowed artery.
The balloon may be inflated and deflated a few times to adequately open up the artery for efficient blood flow. Once the artery is open, the balloon is deflated and removed. Sometimes, a stent is positioned over the deflated balloon so that, when the balloon is inflated inside the artery, it leaves the stent behind to maintain the shape of the artery for a longer period of time. The procedure can take 30 to 60 minutes.
What is the Recovery from an Angioplasty?
Angioplasty is a minimally-invasive procedure that does not typically require hospitalization. Patients go home within 12 to 24 hours, once their catheter has been removed. Common side effects that may occur after angioplasty include soreness and bruising at the catheter’s insertion point.
A small bump may form at this point, as well, but typically resolves on its own over time. Following our post-treatment guidelines, patients can return to work and most light activities within a week after their appointment.
When Can I Resume Normal Activities After Angioplasty?
It's important to check with your doctor regarding any particular care instructions relevant to your case. In general, we expect that you'll be able to resume light activities right away. This includes walking, climbing stairs, and taking care of most of your normal daily activities. You should have little need for assistance taking care of yourself after this minimally-invasive procedure, if any at all. You should be able to increase to a moderate activity level after five days. However, be mindful about avoiding things that cause you to feel tired or short of breath. If any activity causes chest pain, stop. You can expect to be back to your full level of activity, even more strenuous activities and lifting objects, three to four weeks after angioplasty. Your doctor will advise you on what activities you must avoid until you've gained clearance during a follow-up visit.
What Kind of Follow-Up Care Is there After Angioplasty?
There are two aspects of your follow-up care after your angioplasty procedure. Beginning as soon as you get home from your angioplasty, you will need to take prescribed medications as directed. You may be advised to continue certain medications for the foreseeable future to help manage your heart health. Your doctor can discuss this with you at your scheduled follow-up visit. Sometimes, a cardiologist recommends doing an exercise stress test a month to six weeks after the angioplasty. This can help determine the ideal activity level for you as you attend to your general health. Another aspect of follow-up care is your lifestyle. You may be encouraged to visit a nutritionist or dietician who can help you establish eating habits that support heart health. This isn't mandatory; you may discover how to improve your diet by reading books and articles or watching videos online. The effects of a healthy diet are enhanced by routine exercise. Finally, your cardiologist may recommend that you participate in a supervised cardiac rehabilitation program after your angioplasty.
In What Ways can Angioplasty Help Me Feel Better?
The purpose of the angioplasty procedure is to prevent significant damage to the heart muscle by restoring some efficiency to blood flow through arteries that have narrowed. Studies show that this procedure may prevent cardiac arrest in a person having a heart attack. Beyond opening arteries in a minimally-invasive way, angioplasty can offer a few additional benefits. These include:
- You may significantly improve your health. Your angioplasty is just one part of living a more heart-healthy life. After this procedure, you may continue to improve your health through diet, exercise, stress management, and stopping bad habits like smoking or overworking.
- You may have boosted levels of energy. Blocked arteries rob you of the optimal oxygenation and circulation that your body relies upon for basic functions. Restoring that, your angioplasty can pave the way to improved energy to go about your day.
- You may do more things that you enjoy! After having a heart-related scare and angioplasty to correct it, you may have a whole new perspective on life and how you want to live. This is not uncommon. Feeling healthier, grateful for your health, and more energized, you may pick up an old, or a new, hobby that brings more fun and joy to your life!
Does Insurance Cover an Angioplasty?
Many insurance companies provide some degree of coverage for cardiac catheterization and associated procedures, including angioplasty. Every insurance plan is unique, so patients should consult with their provider to determine the details and extent of their coverage.
How much does an Angioplasty procedure cost?
The out-of-pocket cost a patient pays for the angioplasty procedure varies based on the amount that insurance may contribute to the final service fee. Costs may also be influenced by the extent of the procedure. For example, an angioplasty that includes multiple stents will cost more than a procedure that requires no stents.
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