Balloon angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure to treat coronary artery disease and other heart conditions. During the procedure, a long, thin tube called a catheter is inserted into a blocked artery to expand it to allow sufficient blood and oxygen to reach the heart. This relieves symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, and also reduces the risk of heart attack.
During a balloon angioplasty, your doctor will insert a needle into an artery in the leg, arm or wrist. The needle will be guided to the heart and inserted into the narrowed artery with a catheter and deflated balloon. Once in place, the balloon is inflated so that it compresses the plaque against the artery walls, removing the blockage and creating a clear passageway for blood flow. The procedure usually takes one to two hours and may require an overnight hospital stay.
Balloon angioplasty sometimes includes the insertion of a stent during the same procedure. A stent is a mesh-like device used to keep passages open and improve blood flow. The stent may be placed over the balloon and then left behind to keep the expanded artery open. There is a risk of recurring blockage in the treated area, a condition known as restenosis. This condition typically occurs within six months after treatment and may require another angioplasty procedure to clear the artery.