Angioplasty is a procedure done to open a partially blocked blood
vessel so that blood can flow through it more easily. It is most often done on
arteries that deliver blood to the heart (coronary arteries) when they are
narrowed by plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) or blood clots.
During the angioplasty procedure, a thin flexible tube (catheter)
is inserted through an artery in the groin, arm, or wrist and is carefully guided into the
artery that is narrowed. After the tube reaches the narrowed artery, a small
balloon at the end of the tube is inflated. The balloon may remain inflated
for a short time. The pressure from the inflated balloon presses
fat and calcium deposits (plaque) against the wall of the artery to improve
After the fat and calcium buildup is compressed, a small, expandable
tube called a stent is sometimes inserted into the artery to hold it
open. The artery is less likely to get narrow again (restenosis) after
angioplasty with stenting than after angioplasty alone.
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology