Your arteries can slowly narrow due to the buildup of plaque(atherosclerosis or Peripheral Vascular Disease), or you may develop a blood clot in an artery. Both can limit blood flow to the legs and cause pain when you walk (claudication).
Angioplasty is a procedure that uses a balloon to open blocked arteries and to restore blood flow to your legs or other organs. It may be part of another procedure, such as thrombolysis (to dissolve the clot), used on it sown, or combined with a stent placement. Some balloons have a special coating to prevent the blockage from happening again (drug eluting balloons). All angioplasty methods can reduce the symptoms of Peripheral Vascular Disease and restore your ability to walk without pain.
What happens during angioplasty?
You will have already discussed the treatment options with the physician doing the procedure.
Prior to your procedure, we’ll take you to a preparation area where our nurses will start an IV in your arm and give you any medication that may be required prior to your procedure. We may give you medicines to protect your kidneys, antibiotics to help prevent infection, and anti-nausea medications.
When it’s time to begin, we’ll take you to a special room that is similar to an operating room. We usually use conscious sedation for angioplasty, so you’ll remain slightly awake throughout the procedure, but should not feel any pain or discomfort. We will monitor your pulse, blood pressure, and your breathing throughout the procedure.
During the procedure, you will lie on your back on a table and we’ll clean the area where the catheter (a thin, hollow tube) will enter your body using a special solution to minimize infection. We’ll place sterile drapes over your body and an interventionalist will apply a local anesthetic so you don’t feel any pain.
Your interventionalist will make a small incision in your arm, groin or upper thigh to insert the catheter. Then, we’ll use an iodine-based contrast material (dye) to make the blood vessels standout by taking special x-ray pictures and by looking at a special TV monitor (fluoroscopy). In other words, you will first have an angiogram so we can see all the blood vessels in the affected area and find the blockage. Your doctor may prescribe medications to open your blood vessels better and to help us get the best possible images, or give you blood thinners during the procedure, which can make the procedure safer in certain situations.
Once the balloon catheter reaches the blockage, your interventionalist will inflate it to open the artery and restore normal blood flow. You may undergo an angioplasty with or without a stent. At the end of the procedure, your interventionalist will withdraw the catheter and either apply pressure or place a special device in the blood vessel to stop the blood from leaking out. Finally, we’ll put a bandage over the incision.
Although angioplasty is very safe, there are rare complications, including bleeding or damage to a blood vessel and blood clots that can travel to other parts of the body. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of undergoing this procedure.
Note: Avoid heavy lifting or excessive physical exertion for a few days following your angioplasty.
After your procedure, your interventionalist will review the results of your angioplasty with you and your physician so he or she can discuss the next steps with you. We may ask you to return so the interventionalist can check how well you have done after your procedure, and to see if you need any other procedures to make you better.