Coronary artery disease occurs when the coronary arteries supplying the heart muscle develop fatty deposits within the walls that progress to fibrous tissue and then calcify, narrowing the lumen and reducing blood flow—a condition called atherosclerosis. Gradually narrowed arteries may result in angina (chest pain) or sudden narrowing from blood clots that can cause severe, life-threatening heart attacks.

Angioplasty may be performed to treat angina or to intervene in a life-threatening heart attack to restore blood flow to the heart. At Georgia Heart Institute, experienced interventional cardiologists with advanced training in minimally invasive heart procedures perform angioplasties in our specialized, state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs. We offer patients the most advanced options available, including unique expertise for patients with particularly complex cases who may have been told there were no options.

What is coronary angioplasty and stenting?

Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that opens blocked arteries and restores blood flow to the heart muscle. During an angioplasty, a specialized intravenous (IV) sheath is placed into a blood vessel, typically the radial or femoral artery. Then, a tiny tube called a catheter (less than 1/8-inch in diameter) is passed through the bloodstream to the heart, engaging a coronary artery. From there, a very narrow wire the width of about four hairs is passed through the blockage, and then a tiny balloon is tracked over the wire to the area of the blockage and inflated to dilate the narrowing. Subsequently, another balloon with a stent over it is tracked to the blockage and then inflated, deploying the stent into the wall of the vessel to prevent it from collapsing. The balloon is removed, leaving behind the stent as scaffolding to keep the artery open and deliver medications to reduce the risk of scar tissue growth that could re-narrow the vessel.

How long is the recovery after a coronary angioplasty?

Patients frequently go home later the same day if the procedure is to treat angina on an elective outpatient basis. If the procedure is complex, there may be an overnight stay. Emergency procedures for unstable patients and heart attacks are typically discharged from the hospital in 1 to 3 days.  Very sick patients may stay longer.

(Learn more about Emergency Cardiac Care and advanced percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) at Georgia Heart Institute.)

After discharge, working with our specialized Cardiac Rehabilitation Program can help set you up for long-term success. 

Is coronary angioplasty major surgery?

Angioplasty is not considered major surgery because it requires no incisions and is performed under light sedation. Despite the relative ease of the procedure, there are risks involved with doing any work on the heart. These risks are more prevalent for those with very complex heart or vascular conditions. It is essential to discuss the risks and benefits with your cardiologist to determine the best treatment plan for you as an individual.  Sometimes, surgery may offer advantages over PCI, and we work closely with our surgical partners to provide each individualwith the best care and practices.

At Georgia Heart Institute, our interventional cardiology team is expertly experienced, and our care environments are compassionate and state-of-the-art. We look forward to meeting you and taking care of your unique situation.

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