Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure performed to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels in order to improve blood flow in the body's arteries and veins.

In an angioplasty procedure, imaging techniques are used to guide a balloon-tipped catheter, a long, thin plastic tube, into an artery or vein and advance it to where the vessel is narrow or blocked. The balloon is then inflated to open the vessel, deflated and removed.

Before the angioplasty procedure begins, you will be given some pain medicine or general anesthesia. You may also be given blood thinning medicines to keep blood clot from forming.

You will lie down on an examining table. Doctor will make an incision (small cut) on your body, usually near the groin. Then your doctor will insert a catheter (flexible tube) through the incision into an artery. Sometimes the catheter will be placed in your arm or wrist. You will be awake during the procedure.

Guided by live x-ray pictures, doctor maneuvers the catheter up into your heart and arteries. Dye will be injected into your body to highlight blood flow through the arteries. This helps the doctors see any blockages in the blood vessels that lead to your heart.

A guide wire is moved into and across the blockage. A balloon catheter is pushed over the guide wire and into the blockage. The balloon on the end is blown up (inflated). This opens the blocked vessel and restores proper blood flow to the heart.

The average hospital stay is 2 days or less. Some people may not even have to stay overnight in the hospital.

In general, angioplasty patients are able to walk around within 6 hours after the procedure. Complete recovery takes a week or less. Keep the area where the catheter was inserted dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Most patients take aspirin and another medicine called clopidogrel (Plavix) after this procedure. These medicines are blood thinners, and they keep your blood from forming clots in your arteries and stent. A blood clot can lead to a heart attack. Take the medicines exactly as your doctor tells you. Do not stop taking them before talking with your doctor first.

For most people, angioplasty greatly improves blood flow through the coronary arteries and the heart. It may remove the need for coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG).

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