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 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.
Who Is A Candidate for Balloon Angioplasty?
This procedure may be recommended for patients who exhibit certain symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath or chest pain related to Coronary Artery Disease.
- Diagnosed significant narrowing of two or fewer coronary arteries. As an alternative, a doctor may recommend heart bypass surgery.
- Minimal physical improvement of atherosclerosis despite lifestyle modifications and medicines.
- Narrowing or closure of a coronary bypass graft.
- Heart attack.
Who Is Not a Candidate for Balloon Angioplasty?
Balloon angioplasty is generally not recommended for patients whose condition has improved with lifestyle changes and medication or who have diagnosed mild to moderate narrowing of the arteries but are asymptomatic. Patients with kidney disease or impaired kidney function may not be good candidates for this procedure due to the use of contrast dye.
What Are the Benefits of Balloon Angioplasty?
Balloon angioplasty and stenting can be advantageous in several ways:
- It can immediately reduce or relieve symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
- It can reduce the degree of damage to the heart muscle during a heart attack by facilitating blood flow to the heart.
- It can reduce the risk of stroke.
- It can support better kidney function.
- It can facilitate better blood flow to the legs to prevent damage caused by poor circulation.
- When appropriate, balloon angioplasty with stenting is ideal due to its minimal-invasiveness as compared to open-heart surgery.
Is Balloon Angioplasty A Safe Procedure?
Balloon angioplasty with and without stenting is generally considered safe. Complications are rare and all possible measures to reduce risks are instituted during the procedure.
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.
How Can I Prepare for a Balloon Angioplasty Procedure?
A thorough medical history and physical examination are performed before a scheduled balloon angioplasty. Patients may need to undergo blood tests, an electrocardiogram, a chest x-ray, or other screenings before their procedure. A coronary angiogram may also be performed to observe the narrowing or blockage of the arteries of the heart. Because the heart is catheterized for the angiogram, the balloon angioplasty may be performed immediately following this screening the angiogram has indicated atherosclerosis that can be corrected using the angioplasty procedure.
Before an angioplasty procedure, patients may be instructed to:
- Alter or stop certain medications that may increase risks during or after the procedure. Examples include blood-thinners, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and aspirin. Patients must discuss all medications they are taking with their doctor, including supplements and vitamins.
- Arrange transportation for their appointment. An overnight stay in the hospital may be necessary and patients cannot drive themselves home after they are released.
- Bring all medications they are taking to the hospital.
- Avoid eating or drinking approximately 8 hours before the angiogram.
- Take approved medications with a small amount of water on the day of the procedure.
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.
How Long Does a Balloon Angioplasty Procedure Take?
The balloon angioplasty takes, on average, 1 to 2 hours to perform.
After the Balloon Angioplasty Procedure
After the procedure, the incision area will be bandaged. The bandage may be removed the morning after the procedure. Getting the bandage wet can help it come off more easily. A small adhesive bandage must be applied in place of the surgical dressing. Bruising, swelling, and redness may be noticed around where the catheter was inserted. This will decrease over a few weeks.
Patients receive post-treatment instructions that detail the steps to take care of the catheter insertion site. These guidelines should be carefully followed to avoid infection or poor healing.
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.
How Long is the Recovery Process After a Balloon Angioplasty?
Most patients who undergo balloon angioplasty return to work in 1 to 2 weeks. If the procedure is performed for a heart attack, recovery may be longer. Patients can expect their doctor to advise them when they can return to normal activities such as driving, sexual activity, and work.
Can I Exercise After My Balloon Angioplasty Procedure?
Activity should be limited for a few days. Walking around the house is acceptable, but patients can expect to tire easily.
Activity after a Femoral Procedure:
- Heavy lifting should be avoided for one week after treatment. This includes pulling and pushing objects over 10 pounds
- Avoid straining for bowel movements during the first 4 days after the angioplasty.
- If stairs must be climbed, do so more slowly than usual.
- Avoid strenuous activities such as golf, jogging, and exercise for 5 days.
- Increase activity level gradually over the course of a week.
Activity after a Radial Procedure:
- Rest the wrist involved in the procedure for 24 hours. No lifting.
- Avoid strenuous activities.
- Avoid using vibrating devices such as a chainsaw, lawnmower, or motorcycle for 48 hours.
- Increase activity level gradually over two to three days.