smiling nurse

You’ve probably heard of angioplasty, a common medical procedure that can open up arteries in your heart and other parts of your body. If you have a blocked or narrowed artery and need to have this procedure, you probably wonder how it works, and what you can expect before, during, and after.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

What Is Angioplasty?

When your arteries become blocked or narrowed, blood cannot flow through them easily. Angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a catheter and balloon to open up blocked arteries and bring back healthy blood flow.

Angioplasty is often used to treat blocked coronary, or heart, arteries, but it can also be used for blocked arteries in other parts of your body like your neck, arms, legs, and pelvis.

What Should I Expect During an Angioplasty?

During the procedure, you’ll be awake, but you’ll get medicine to help you relax.

Depending on your condition and medical history, your doctor will choose an artery in your leg or arm to insert the catheter. You may feel some pressure when your doctor puts the catheter in, and the insertion area might be sore afterward. Many people have bruising as well.

Once the catheter is inserted, your doctor threads a very thin wire into your artery and places another catheter, with a balloon at its tip, over the wire. Your doctor inflates the balloon, pushing the plaque out of the way and opening your artery to allow your blood to flow better.

If necessary, your doctor may inflate the balloon several times. Sometimes, a metal mesh tube called a stent is placed inside your artery to help keep it open.

You may need to lie on your back for several hours after the procedure, and your doctor and nurses will check on you often to make sure you don’t have signs of bleeding. Most people stay in the hospital overnight after the procedure.

Before you go home, you’ll get information about what to do, what not to do, and when you can get back to your normal activities.

Are There Risks with Angioplasty?

Angioplasty is a common procedure that does not usually cause complications, but like any medical procedure, there are some risks. These can include:

  • Bleeding
  • Damage to your artery
  • An allergic reaction to the dye
  • Arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat
  • The need for an emergency coronary bypass graft, if your artery closes instead of opening
  • Kidney damage from the dye
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

To learn more about angioplasty, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or contact us at 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.