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Angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is a type of non-invasive procedure (no incisions required / small puncture / low to moderate sedation) performed to open-up clogged arteries. Clogged arteries are caused by coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is a type of heart disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the blood vessels supplying the heart (coronary arteries). This plaque buildup is known as atherosclerosis. As plaque continues to build, the narrowing gets worse. This decreases the blood flow to the heart. In addition, the plaque may rupture, and lead to a blood clot which could then block the blood supply to the heart, causing a heart attack.

Prior to arriving at this procedure, your doctor will recommend various types of medications and suggest lifestyle changes. However, if these do not improve your health, or if you have a heart attack, your doctor may suggest an angioplasty. Most times, your doctor may also suggest placing a stent (small wire mesh tube) in the treated portion of the artery as well. The stent will provide support to the artery’s inner wall, reduce chances of the artery becoming narrowed or blocked again, and provide support to the artery if torn or injured during PCI.

The combination of angioplasty and stenting will immediately improve blood flow through the blocked artery, decrease your symptoms including chest pain or shortness of breath, increase the ability for physical activity, and decrease your risk of developing other medical conditions.

How to prepare for the procedure

Before the procedure, your doctor and treatment team will explain to you what to expect before, during and after the procedure and potential risks of the procedure. Other recommendations include:

Talk to your doctor about

  • All medications, herbal products and dietary supplements you are currently taking and ask for their recommendations about each
  • Diabetes and how to adjust your medicine on the day of the procedure
  • Radiation exposure, especially for those that are pregnant
  • Any allergies to medicines, latex, tape, iodine, and anesthetic agents
  • Any history of bleeding disorders
  • Any implanted device (e.g. pacemaker or ICD)
  • Any body piercings on your chest or abdomen

Other suggestions

  • Eat a normal meal the evening before the procedure. However, do not eat, drink or chew anything after midnight before your procedure. If you must take medications, only take them with sips of water
  • Leave all jewelry at home
  • Remove all makeup and nail polish
  • Wear comfortable clothing when you come to the hospital
  • If you normally wear dentures, glasses, or hearing devices at home, plan to wear them during the procedure

What to expect before the procedure

Before the procedure, your doctor might perform a variety of tests, including:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

What to expect during the procedure

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An angioplasty usually takes 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the difficulty and number of blockages, and whether any complications arise. This procedure is usually performed in the catheterization lab. Check with your doctor about the details of your procedure. In general:

  • You will change into a hospital gown
  • A nurse will start the intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm which will administer medications, fluids, and blood-thinning medications
  • Prior to starting the procedure, you will receive a local anesthetic to numb the insertion site. The insertion site is usually a blood vessel (artery or vein) in your groin or wrist area
  • Once the local anesthetic has taken effect, a small needle is used to access the artery and occasionally a small cut is made in the skin
  • A catheter (containing a balloon at its tip) is inserted into the artery and guided to the arteries in your heart. You might feel pressure at the insertion site, but you shouldn’t feel any sharp pain. Tell your doctor if you do
  • A small amount of contrast dye is injected through the catheter, which helps the doctor visualize the blockage on X-ray images
  • Once the blockage is identified, the balloon is deployed and inflated. This will open up the affected artery
  • In most cases, a stent will be placed in the artery before or after the balloon is inflated. The inflation of the balloon will open the artery and fully expand the stent
  • Once the procedure is complete, the balloon is deflated and removed. The catheter is also removed and the insertion site is closed off with the use of a sterile bandage or sutures

What to expect after the procedure

After the procedure, you may be taken to the recovery room for observation or returned to your hospital room for 1 to 2 days. Other recommendations include:

General guidelines
  • A nurse will monitor your vital signs, the insertion site, and circulation and sensation in the affected leg or arm
  • You must stay in bed for several hours as recommended by your doctor
  • Tell your nurse right away if you feel any chest pain or tightness, or any other pain, as well as any feelings of warmth, bleeding, or pain at the insertion site
  • You'll be encouraged to drink water and other fluids to help flush the dye from your body
  • Your doctor will give you instructions to follow during your recovery
  • A cardiac rehabilitation program may be suggested
Saint Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
Monmouth Medical Center
300 Second Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 222-5200
Clara Maass Medical Center
1 Clara Maass Drive
Belleville, NJ 07109
(973) 450-2000
Community Medical Center
99 Highway 37 West
Toms River, NJ 08755
(732) 557-8000
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
RWJ University Hospital Hamilton
1 Hamilton Health Place
Hamilton, NJ 08690
(609) 586-7900
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
RWJ University Hospital Rahway
865 Stone Street
Rahway, NJ 07065
(732) 381-4200
RWJ University Hospital Somerset
110 Rehill Avenue
Somerville, NJ 08876
(908) 685-2200

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