Angioplasty is a medical procedure undertaken to open clogged blood vessels. The procedure is also medically called percutaneous coronary intervention. Angioplasty involves the temporary insertion of a tiny balloon into an artery where it is clogged. The tiny balloon is then inflated to assist in widening the artery where it is clogged. Angioplasty specifically is designed to address what is known as atherosclerosis. An atherosclerosis is the slow buildup of fatty plaques in a person's blood vessels. Angioplasty is recommended for individuals with partially blocked arteries who suffer from chest pain and shortness of breath. The procedure is also utilized during a heart attack as a means of rapidly opening a blocked artery to reduce the level of damage sustained by a person's heart.
During an angioplasty procedure, a catheter is inserted or threaded into a patient's obstructed blood vessel. This is done by inserting the catheter through a person's skin and into the vessel to be treated. Angioplasty is performed from one of two different locations on a patient. These are the brachial artery in the arm or the femoral artery in a person's groin. The catheter device includes a deflated, small balloon. The catheter, and deflated balloon, is threaded to the point in the vessel that has narrowed because of the buildup of fatty plaques. When the catheter and balloon reach the identified site, the balloon itself is inflated. The inflation process expands the narrowed vessel. Once this is accomplished, the balloon is deflated. In some cases, a wire mesh or stent will be inserted into the vessel. This is done to maintain a more open vessel into the future and to prevent narrowing. A person undergoing angioplasty is provided a local anesthesia, but remains awake during the process. Angioplasty is considered a minimally invasive medical procedure. While recovery typically occurs without complications, for more serious cases, such as a heart attack, patients may need to stay in the hospital a little longer to monitor their progress.