Patient Instructions: Angioplasty

Note: The following preps are for outpatient care only. For questions about any of these preps, please contact the Radiology Reception Desk, at (734) 936-4500 for more information.

What is an angioplasty?

An angioplasty is a procedure that opens up blocked blood vessels without surgery. A specially trained doctor, the interventional radiologist, performs this procedure in the radiology department. During the procedure, the interventional radiologist places a catheter (a small tube) into your narrowed artery. There is a balloon on the end of the catheter. When the balloon is in the area of the blockage, the doctor inflates the balloon. Inflating the balloon stretches out the artery, improving blood flow through the area. The interventional radiologist uses X-rays and contrast (X-ray dye) to help guide the catheter into the correct area for the angioplasty.

Why do I need angioplasty?

The most common reason for an angioplasty is to clear a blockage of an artery caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis causes fatty deposits (plaque) to build up on the inside of your arteries. Arteries carry blood and oxygen to all the tissues of your body. When an artery becomes narrowed, the tissues to which that artery goes do not get enough oxygen. The symptoms you feel depend on which artery is blocked. For example, a blocked artery in the legs may cause pain when you walk or even when you are resting in bed. A blocked artery to a kidney may cause high blood pressure. Some blockages are best treated with surgery and some are best treated with angioplasty. In many cases, angioplasty can open up the artery that is blocked. This may relieve your symptoms because more oxygen will be able to go through the artery to your tissues.

What is angioplasty like? Will it hurt?

If you have not had an angiogram (an X-ray examination of your arteries), the interventional team will perform that procedure before proceeding with the angioplasty. You can read "Questions and Answers About Angiography" to learn about it. An angioplasty has three major steps: placement of the angioplasty catheter into the blocked artery, inflation of the balloon to open the blocked artery, and removal of the catheter. Local anesthetic is used so that you will only feel some pressure during the procedure. The angioplasty takes one to two hours to complete but it may take longer.

How do I prepare for my angioplasty?

If you are already an inpatient, your nurse and doctors will give you instructions on how to prepare for your angioplasty. If you are being admitted to the hospital on the morning of your angioplasty or if you are having your procedure done as an outpatient - follow these instructions unless your doctor specifies otherwise:

  • Eating: Do not eat any solid food for 6 hours prior to your procedure, you may have *clear liquids up to 2 hours prior to the procedure. *Clear liquids: water , apple juice, tea. Orange juice is not a clear liquid
  • Medications:Most people should continue to take their prescribed medications. If you are diabetic and are taking Glucophage, Glucovance or Avandamet you must not take the medication for two days after the examination. Also you must have a blood test to check your kidney function before restarting the above medications. Ask your physician for instructions. If you are a diabetic and taking insulin, you should ask your physician for specific instructions regarding the dosages for the day of your examination. If you are taking Coumadin or other medications to thin your blood, you must tell your doctor so that it can be stopped. Bring all your medications with you.
  • Allergies: If you are allergic to contrast (X-ray dye) or iodine, let your doctor know as soon as possible. Let the interventional radiologist know about your allergy a few days before your angioplasty. Your doctors can then plan to take special precautions during the procedure.
  • Smoking:Do not smoke for at least 24 hours before your angioplasty.

What happens when I arrive in the Radiology Department?

  • Everybody having an angioplasty will have blood tests that are usually done the day before the angioplasty
  • You will change into a hospital gown.
  • Intravenous (IV) line will be placed in one of your veins. This will be used to give you fluids and medicines during the procedure. The IV will stay in place until your recovery is completed. You will receive intravenous sedation medications during the procedure.
  • Before your angioplasty begins, a member of the interventional radiology team (doctor, nurse, or technologist) will talk with you about the procedure in detail and answer any questions you have.

What happens after the procedure?

  • If you are already a patient in the hospital or if you have been scheduled to be admitted to the hospital immediately after your angioplasty: you will stay in the hospital after your study is completed. You will return from the radiology department to your hospital room, and the nursing staff will observe you to make sure you are all right.
  • If you are having your angioplasty done as an outpatient: you will stay in the hospital for four to six hours after the procedure is completed. Hospital staff will watch over you to make sure that you are all right. You will go home after the observation period.
  • Please make arrangements for someone to drive you home. You may not drive yourself home. The radiologist will send a report to your doctor and will speak with you and your accompanying family after the procedure. It is best to ask your doctor for the exam results.
  • NOTE: most patients having angioplasty procedure spend at least one night in the hospital.

After you go home:

  • DO take it easy for 24 hours.
  • DO drink plenty of fluids and DO resume your regular diet.
  • DO keep a bandage on the catheter insertion site for a day.
  • DO NOT drive or run machinery for at least 24 hours.
  • DO NOT do any strenuous exercise or lifting for at least two days.
  • DO NOT take a hot bath or shower for at least 12 hours.

Call your doctor immediately if:

  • You start bleeding where the catheter was inserted.
  • If you start bleeding, lie down flat and apply pressure on the bleeding area.
  • There is any change in the color or temperature of the area where the catheter was inserted.
  • There is a numbness, coolness, change in color of the arm or leg where the catheter was inserted.
  • There is pain in the area where the angioplasty balloon was inflated.
  • Your doctor will tell you if you need to return to the hospital.

Angioplasty Scheduling

If you have any questions regarding Angioplasty scheduling, please call (734) 936-4500. Reviewed and Approved: James Shields, MD 10/2011