Heart Health

Coronary Angioplasty

What is Coronary Angioplasty?

A coronary angioplasty is a procedure used to enlarge narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. The arteries in your heart can become clogged with a buildup of cholesterol, cells, and plaque. When this occurs, blood flow to the heart is restricted, which causes a great deal of pain and discomfort in the chest. People experiencing blocked coronary arteries are also at risk of a heart attack or death if the blockage worsens. 

Other names for coronary angioplasty include:

  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)
  • Percutaneous intervention
  • Percutaneous transluminal angioplasty
  • Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA)
  • Balloon angioplasty
  • Coronary artery angioplasty

What happens during Coronary Angioplasty?

During the procedure, your doctor will numb the point-of-entry of the catheter with a local anesthetic. This usually is on the arm or the groin. The catheter is threaded through the arterial system until it reaches the heart artery. Next, a small balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated at the blockage site, widening the blocked artery. After the artery is enlarged, the balloon is deflated, and the catheter is removed from the body. 

Most people who have a coronary angioplasty will also have a stent placed during the same procedure. The stent supports the arterial walls by creating a barrier that prevents it from re-narrowing after the angioplasty. In this case, the stent is placed around the balloon before entering the body. Once the balloon is inflated, the stent locks into place where it permanently stays to improve blood flow. A coronary angioplasty usually takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours, although it can take longer in special cases.

What are the risks of Coronary Angioplasty?

There are very few risks associated with the coronary angioplasty procedure. However, it is essential to be aware that some risks do exist.

The most common risks are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Infection at the catheter insertion site
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to blood vessel
  • Bleeding at the catheter insertion site
  • Rupture of coronary artery
  • Complete closing of the coronary artery, needing open-heart surgery
  • Allergic reaction to contrast dye
  • Kidney damage to contrast dye

If you are experiencing chest discomfort, talk to one of our providers about the treatment options available through Baptist Health.