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What is angioplasty?

Angioplasty

Angioplasty is a procedure to widen or open a blocked or narrowed artery. It restores normal blood flow through diseased arteries. Angioplasty is used on renal (kidney) arteries, carotid (neck) arteries, cerebral (brain) arteries, and coronary (heart) arteries. It treats coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, and carotid artery disease.

Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your organs and tissues. Atherosclerosis is a common cause of narrowed or blocked arteries. Atherosclerosis is a build-up of fatty deposits on artery walls. The deposits harden into a substance called plaque. A buildup of plaque narrows and hardens the artery. A serious narrowing can occur over time and reduce blood flow through artery. 

Atherosclerosis can also cause a blood clot to form. This can totally block the artery and cause a heart attack stroke, stroke, tissue death, and other serious and life threatening problems.

Angioplasty is only one method used to treat atherosclerosis. Discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you.

Types of angioplasty

The types of angioplasty procedures include:

  • Atherectomy involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. Your doctor passes the catheter into the diseased artery using a guide wire. The plaque is scraped or drilled away with special catheter tools.
  • Balloon angioplasty is a similar procedure. It involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. Your doctor passes the catheter into the diseased artery using a guide wire. Your doctor then expands a balloon on the tip of the catheter wire to open the artery.
  • Laser angioplasty also involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. Your doctor passes the catheter into the diseased artery using a guide wire. A laser on the catheter tip destroys the plaque and opens the artery.

Your doctor considers different factors to decide which type of procedure or combination of procedures to use. Factors include the location, size, shape, and softness or hardness of the plaque. 

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to angioplasty to diagnose or treat certain conditions. Procedures include:

  • Angiography, which allows your doctor to take a picture or image (called an angiogram) of your blood vessels
  • Minimally invasive bypass grafting, which provides a new route for blood flow around diseased arteries. Grafting uses healthy vessels taken from other places in your body. You may have general anesthesia if your doctor combines this surgery with angioplasty.
  • Stenting, which involves inserting a mesh tube inside the artery and expanding it to keep the artery open after angioplasty.
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 7, 2013

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View Sources

Medical References

Angioplasty and stenting. Massachusetts General Hospital. http://www.massgeneral.org/imaging/services/procedure.aspx?id=2265. Accessed April 16, 2013.
Angioplasty and Stenting. Society of Interventional Radiology. http://www.sirweb.org/patients/angioplasty-stent/. Accessed April 16, 2013.
Angioplasty and Vascular Stenting. American College of Radiology. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=angioplasty. Accessed April 16, 2013.
Atherosclerosis Atherectomy. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/atherectomy/vs_atherosclerosis_atherectomy.aspx. Accessed April 16, 2013.
Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed April 16, 2013.

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