What is Angioplasty?

What is an Angioplasty?

Angioplasty is a procedure done to unclog coronary arteries that are clogged by fat. The coronary arteries (right and left) are responsible for carrying the blood to the myocardium, which is the heart muscle.

Angioplasty is used to remove fats that are clogging arteries and making it difficult for blood to pass through.

Meaning of Angioplasty

Why Is Angioplasty Used?

Angioplasty is necessary when there is clogging of the arteries. This is because clogging an artery hinders the arrival of blood in the myocardium and the blood that is pumped up to the heart is made up of oxygen and nutrients.

If the flow of oxygen and nutrients that reaches the heart decreases too much, it can cause serious consequences, such as an acute myocardial infarction.

How Is Angioplasty Done?

Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure because it is made with catheters, which are small flexible tubes and thin. Angioplasty can be done in two ways: with a balloon or with a stent.

Balloon Angioplasty

In this case a catheter with a balloon is placed in the patient’s femoral artery, until it reaches the clogged artery. The catheter can be placed in the patient by the groin or arm.

When the catheter arrives at the clogged site, the balloon is inflated to break down the fat plates that caused the clogging. The balloon also has the function of increasing the size of the artery to prevent new clogging.

Balloon-only angioplasty is currently poorly used only when the patient’s blood vessels are very thin and can not receive a stent. In almost all cases the procedure is done with balloon and with stent.

Angioplasty with Stent

In this angioplasty the catheters are used to take the stent to the clogged artery. The stent  is a tube made of steel that is placed inside the artery, so that it increases in size and does not clog again.

The balloon and stents are taken to the clogging site. Then the balloon is inflated to increase and fix the stent in the artery. Thereafter the balloon is withdrawn.


Despite being a procedure considered to be non-invasive, recovery requires some care. In the first few hours after the procedure, the patient should be observed and at rest.

In the days following discharge from the hospital, the recommendation is to avoid physical exertion for about fifteen days, rest and consume a light diet.

In the first few months after patient, angioplasty should be accompanied by a cardiologist to ensure that no complications or new artery clogging occur.

Angioplasty of the Legs

The procedure can also be done to unclog arteries in the legs. Angioplasty in the lower limbs is done in the same way as is done in the coronary arteries, with the use of balloon and stent.

The procedure is used in case of arteries with large clogging and when other treatments were not enough to relieve the symptoms of tiredness and leg pain.

Cerebral Angioplasty

The angioplasty procedure can also be done on the arteries attached to the skull, vertebral arteries and carotid arteries.

It is indicated when there is obstruction by fat in these arteries, because the clogging can have as a consequence spills and cerebrovascular accidents. Cerebral angioplasty is also done with the use of balloon and stent.

Difference Between Angioplasty and Catheterization

Angioplasty and catheterization are two procedures done in a very similar way, the difference between them is objective of each one.

Angioplasty is the procedure used to unclog a blocked artery.

Catheterization is an examination procedure used to make a diagnosis of heart problems. It is also done by introducing a catheter into the artery to the point that will be investigated. Thereafter, a contrast liquid is placed through the catheter. This liquid facilitates visualization of the arteries in the examination.

Risks and Complications of Angioplasty

Angioplasty is considered a low-invasive, low-risk procedure.

Some risks of undergoing the procedure are: infarction, thrombosis, stroke, cardiac arrhythmias, artery lesions or thromboses. But the complications are quite rare and approximately 95% of the patients do not suffer any serious consequences.

To avoid complications after the procedure, it is necessary to have medical follow-up in the months following the procedure, to have a low sugar diet and fatty foods, in addition to not smoking.