Angioplasty is a procedure to widen a narrow blood vessel. The procedure is usually done on the blood vessels of the heart (coronary arteries) but may help vessels to other parts of the body such as the legs. When a vessel in the heart becomes partially blocked there is decreased blood flow to that area. This may lead to chest pain or a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Angioplasty may be done after a procedure that found a problem or as an emergency to treat a heart attack by opening the blocked arteries. The arteries are usually blocked by cholesterol buildup (plaque) in the lining or walls.


  • Allergies.

  • Medicines taken, including herbs, eyedrops, over-the-counter medicines, and creams.

  • Use of steroids (by mouth or creams).

  • Previous problems with anesthetics or numbing medicines.

  • Possibility of pregnancy, if this applies.

  • History of blood clots (thrombophlebitis).

  • History of bleeding or blood problems.

  • Previous surgery.

  • Other health problems.


  • Damage to the artery.

  • A blockage may return.

  • Bleeding at the insertion site.

  • Blood clot to another part of the body.


  • Let your caregiver know if you have had an allergy to dyes used in X-ray, or if you have ever had kidney problems or failure.

  • Do not eat or drink starting from midnight up to the time of the procedure, or as directed.

  • You may drink enough water to take your medicines the morning of the procedure if you were instructed to do so.

  • You should be at the hospital or outpatient facility where the procedure is to be done 60 minutes prior to the procedure or as directed.


  • You may be given a medicine to help you relax before and during the procedure through an intravenous (IV) access in your hand or arm.

  • Medicine that numbs the area (local anesthetic) may be used before inserting the long, thin tube (catheter).

  • You will be prepared for the procedure by washing and shaving the area where the catheter will be inserted. This is usually done in the groin.

  • A catheter will be inserted into an artery using a guide wire. This is guided under a type of X-ray (fluoroscopy) to the opening of the blocked artery.

  • Dye is then injected and X-rays are taken.

  • Once positioned at the narrowed portion of the blood vessel, the balloon is inflated to make the artery wider. Expanding the balloon crushes the plaque into the wall of the vessel and improves the blood flow.

  • Sometimes the artery may be made wider using a laser or other tools to remove plaque.

  • When the blood flow is better, the balloon is deflated and the catheter is removed.


  • You will stay in bed for several hours.

  • The access site will be watched and you will be checked frequently.

  • Blood tests, X-rays, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) may be done.

  • You may stay in the hospital overnight for observation.