Inserting the Balloon CatheterDuring angioplasty, your doctor inserts a special balloon-tipped catheter into your artery and guides it to the blockage. If your doctor encounters a clot that is blocking the artery, a medication will be given to dissolve the clot before continuing. Once the balloon catheter is correctly placed, it is inflated and deflated several times. When the balloon inflates, it briefly blocks the flow of blood. This might cause you to experience chest discomfort. If this happens, you should tell your doctor, as pain medicine can be given. With a successful procedure, the blockage is squeezed outward against the wall of the artery and blood flow is restored.
Inserting the StentDepending on the specifics of the blockage, your doctor may place a stent in your artery. The stent is an expandable device that is mounted on a balloon catheter, similar to the one used for the angioplasty. The stent and balloon are advanced to the blockage area, and the stent is expanded into place. A stent supports the artery and helps it remain open for a longer time. After the stent has been placed, the body will grow tissue over the stent to help maintain its position. The stent will not move around inside your body.
Finishing the AngioplastyOnce the angioplasty is complete, your doctor will take out the catheter, but the introducer may remain in the artery. Your doctor will leave the introducer in place for a time to be prepared in case the artery recloses. If you experience chest pain, back pain, or other unusual feelings after your procedure, the coronary artery may be reclosing. For this reason, continued communication with your doctor is essential.
An angioplasty procedure usually takes from one to three hours, but this varies from person to person. Your doctor will tell you what is happening throughout.