Frequently Asked Questions About Angioplasty

Q. What is Angioplasty

A. Angioplasty is a medical procedure that opens up blocked or narrowed blood vessels
without surgery. During the angioplasty, a very small balloon attached to a thin tube (a
catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel through a very small incision in the skin, about
the size of a pencil tip. The catheter is threaded under X-ray guidance to the site of the
blocked artery. When the balloon is the area of the blockage, it is inflated to open the
artery, improving blood flow through the area.

Q. What are the benefits of having angioplasty?

A. Angioplasty can open your blocked artery, restore blood flow to your tissue, and
relieve your symptoms without the need for surgery.

Q. Why would I need angioplasty?

A. The most common reason for angioplasty is to relieve a blockage of an artery caused
by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis is a gradual process in
which cholesterol and scar tissue build up inside the artery, forming a substance called
"plaque" that clogs the artery.

Arteries are like tubes; they carry blood and oxygen to the tissue in your body. When
an artery becomes narrowed or blocked, the tissue supplied by the artery does not get
enough oxygen. The symptoms you feel depend on which artery is blocked. For
example, a blocked artery in the legs may cause pain when you walk of even when you
are resting in bed. A blocked artery to a kidney may cause high blood pressure.

Some blockages are best treated with surgery, while others are best treated with
angioplasty. The angioplasty procedure usually takes one to two hours to complete. In
some cases, it may take longer.

Q. What is an angioplasty like? Will it hurt?

Placement of the angioplasty catheter into blocked artery, inflation of the balloon to
open the blocked artery, and removal of the catheter. Local anesthetic is used so that
you will only feel some pressure during the procedure.

Medication. Most people can continue to take their prescribed medicines. If you are a
diabetic and take insulin, ask your doctor about modifying your insulin dose for the day
of your procedure. If you are taking the oral anti-diabetic medicine glucophage
(Metformin), you will need to discontinue use for up to 48 hours prior to the procedure
and 48 hours following the procedure. Consult with your doctor about blood sugar
control during this period. If you take a blood thinner such as Coumadin, you must tell
your doctor so that it can be stopped. Bring all your medications with you.

Allergies. If you are allergic to contrast (X-ray dye) or iodine, let your doctor know as
soon as possible. Your doctors can then plan to take special precautions during the
procedure or prescribe special medications prior to the procedure.

Smoking. Do not smoke for at least 24 hours before your angioplasty.

Q. What happens after my angioplasty? Can I go home?

A. In most cases, you will stay in the hospital after the angioplasty is completed. You
will return to your hospital room, and the nursing staff will let you know when you can
eat and how long you need to stay in bed.

If you are returning home on the day of your angioplasty, you will stay in the hospital
for four to six hours after the angioplasty is completed. After this observation period,
you will be allowed to go home. Have someone drive you home after your procedure.
You should not drive home yourself.

Q. What are the risks of having angioplasty?

A. With modern techniques, angioplasty is safer than surgery, and complications are
infrequent. However, because the procedure involves stretching one of your arteries,
and includes the use of catheters and contrast injection, there is some risk. Placing a
catheter in your artery can damage the artery and may result in bleeding. Even when
the artery has not been damaged, you may have a bruise or a small lump where the
catheter was inserted. The bruise or lump may be sore, but will go away in a few days
to a week.
FAQs: Angioplasty
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