Angioplasty and Vascular Stenting
Angioplasty uses a balloon-tipped catheter to open a blocked blood vessel and improve blood flow. The doctor uses medical imaging to guide the catheter to the blockage. The balloon is inflated to open the vessel and improve blood flow. It may be done with or without a metal mesh tube called a stent. The stent is left inside the blood vessel to help keep it open. Angioplasty is minimally invasive and usually does not require general anesthesia.
Your doctor will tell you how to prepare and if you should take your regular medication. Most angioplasty procedures do not require an overnight stay. However, your doctor will discuss this with you. You may be told not to eat or drink anything several hours before the procedure. Tell your doctor if there’s a chance you are pregnant. List any recent illnesses, medical conditions, allergies and medications you’re taking. Leave jewelry at home and wear loose, comfortable clothing. You may be asked to wear a gown.
What are Angioplasty and Vascular Stenting?
Angioplasty, with or without vascular stenting, is a minimally invasive procedure. It is used to improve blood flow when a vein or artery is too narrow or blocked. It is usually done in an interventional radiology suite rather than operating room.
In angioplasty, x-ray fluoroscopy or other imaging is used to guide a balloon-tipped catheter (a long, thin plastic tube) into an artery or vein to where it is narrowed or blocked. The balloon is inflated to open the vessel, then deflated and removed.
A wire mesh tube called a stent may be permanently placed in the newly opened vessel to help keep it open. There are different types of stents, including wire mesh. Stents covered in fabric-type material are called stent grafts.
What are some common uses of the procedures?
Angioplasty with or without stenting is commonly used to treat conditions that narrow or block blood vessels and interrupt blood flow. These conditions include:
- coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries that carry blood and oxygen to the heart muscle.
- narrowing of the large arteries due to hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. This is a build-up of cholesterol and other fatty deposits, called plaques, on the artery walls.
- peripheral artery disease (PAD), a narrowing of the arteries in the legs or arms.
- carotid artery stenosis, a narrowing of the neck arteries supplying blood to the brain.
- narrowing or blockage in the veins in the chest, abdomen, pelvis, arms and legs.
- renal vascular hypertension, high blood pressure caused by a narrowing of the kidney arteries. Angioplasty and stenting may be used to help improve kidney function.
- narrowing in dialysis fistula or grafts. Fistulas and grafts are artificial blood vessel connections doctors use in kidney dialysis. Angioplasty is generally used when these connections become narrow or blocked. Stenting may also be needed in some cases.
How should I prepare?
Tell your doctor about all the medications you take, including herbal supplements. List any allergies, especially to local anesthetic, general anesthesia or to contrast materials. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or blood thinners before your procedure.
Tell your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
Women should always inform their physician and x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. Many imaging tests are not performed during pregnancy so as not to expose the fetus to radiation. If an x-ray is necessary, precautions will be taken to minimize radiation exposure to the baby. See the Safety page for more information about pregnancy and x-rays.
In most cases, you should take your usual medications, especially blood pressure medications. Take these with sips of water on the morning of your procedure.
Other than medications, your doctor may tell you to not eat or drink anything for several hours before your procedure.
You may need to stay overnight at the hospital.