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What are angioplasty and stenting?

Angioplasty is a common, minimally invasive procedure that uses a catheter with a tiny balloon on the end to open up blocked arteries. The balloon cracks the plaque that has built up and caused the blockage, then it is removed. The procedure is usually followed by the placement of a small, wire mesh tube, called a stent, which keeps the artery open permanently.

Why it's done

Angioplasty and stenting are most commonly performed to treat atherosclerosis, which occurs when plaque and other substances build up in the arteries and restrict blood flow. We use this procedure to undo the damage done by atherosclerosis and restore blood flow to affected areas.

Our approach

With this procedure and continued care, we are dedicated to helping you avoid the complications that atherosclerosis can cause. We do our due diligence to determine the best treatment option for addressing your issue. There are no “one-size-fits-all” options in vascular care, which is why our surgeons work to offer a customized approach for every patient. Our goal is to ensure you have the best possible quality of life, regardless of whatever condition you may be facing.

Though angioplasty is a relatively standard treatment option, we deliver the latest techniques. One of these is a highly targeted method of drug delivery via the balloon we use in angioplasty. We’re always working toward new ways to make even the most tried and true vascular procedures more effective.

Risk factors

You might be at risk to develop conditions that warrant this treatment if you have a family history of atherosclerosis, smoke, or have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

Complications

One of the most prevalent complications related to angioplasty and stenting is the development of scar tissue within the artery after the procedure. This could cause the artery to narrow again in the future. Our surgeons are experts not only in avoiding this complication, but also at salvaging the situation when patients come to us with scar tissue already present due to past procedures.

What to expect

The procedure is usually performed under local anesthesia and causes only minimal discomfort. We’ll begin by inserting a small needle in your groin or upper arm, depending on which offers the best access to the artery we plan to treat. Then, we use X-ray guidance and an intravascular dye that helps us identify blockages to carefully place a small balloon attached to a flexible catheter into the blood vessel. Once placed, the balloon will inflate, which opens the vessel and pushes plaque out of the path of blood flow. Sometimes, the balloon is used to deliver medication directly into the plaque as well to prevent another blockage. Once the artery is open and any medication is administered, we remove the balloon.

We usually follow angioplasty with the placement of a permanent stent. A stent is a small, wire mesh tube that bears resemblance to the spring of a ballpoint pen. It ensures the artery remains open, and may also be used to administer drugs to the plaque if this was not done via the balloon. Both procedures are completed through a small needle hole, with no incisions involved.

Recovery

Since angioplasty and stenting are both minimally invasive procedures, the recovery time is relatively minimal. Most patients go home the same day. We may advise that you avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours or longer depending on your overall health.

Results

For most people, angioplasty is very successful for opening up the artery and restoring blood flow. However, in situations where it is not effective, a traditional surgical procedure may be necessary for treatment.

Possible side effects

You are likely to experience some bruising and soreness at the insertion site. Additionally, you will feel some mild discomfort during the procedure, though this should not continue once the balloon is removed. If you experience any pain, bleeding or discoloration in your legs or near the insertion site, you should consult your doctor.

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