Balloon angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat peripheral artery disease (PAD), coronary artery disease and other vascular conditions, by restoring blood flow through an artery or vein. It helps to enlarge blocked blood vessels that may have developed as a result of of atherosclerosis, a condition when plaque builds up on the inner walls of the arteries and causes them to harden and narrow. A balloon angioplasty involves the insertion of a tiny balloon that is inflated to open and widen the artery, often combined with the insertion of a stent, that helps to keep the artery open, so it will not narrow again in the future. The stent then remains in the artery, holding it open to improve blood flow to the heart.
The Balloon Angioplasty Procedure
A balloon angioplasty may be recommended for people with blockages in the arteries. Patients are often sedated but remain awake during the procedure. An incision is made in the arm or groin, and a catheter is inserted. A contrast dye is injected through the catheter to highlight the clogged areas during the procedure. A tube with a deflated balloon is inserted through the catheter to the blockage. The balloon is inflated to widen the artery, pushing the plaque aside allowing the blood to flow through smoothly. The balloon angioplasty takes, on average, 1 to 2 hours to perform.
Recovery from Balloon Angioplasty
Patients may experience pain or discomfort at the site where the catheter was inserted. Medication may be prescribed to help prevent blood clots from forming. Strenuous activities should be avoided for a few days following the procedure and most patients can return to work or regular activities within one week.
Complications of Balloon Angioplasty
While it is generally considered a safe procedure, there are risks associated with balloon angioplasty which include: blood clots, excessive bleeding or re-occurrence of stenosis, the narrowing of the blood vessel restricting blood flow. Although rare, additional risks may also include heart attack, stroke, kidney problems or abnormal heart rhythms.