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An angioplasty procedure is a minimally invasive technique that is performed by a cardiologist in order to enhance blood flow in a patient who may have obstructed arteries or veins. During the procedure, the patient remains awake as a long, slender plastic tube, called a catheter, is inserted inside a blocked artery and vein. The tube is inflated to widen the vessel and then deflated and removed. Sometimes a stent, a flexible tube that aids in supporting an artery or vein wall, may be required to keep the artery or vein open. Typically, an angioplasty procedure is done on an out-patient basis and may take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.
The cardiologist typically will insert the catheter through the groin area or the end of the elbow. The insertion may cause a slight discomfort in a patient. The area chosen is cleaned thoroughly and numbed with local anesthesia. The catheter is guided into the needed area and then inflated for a few minutes. When the artery or vein has been opened long enough, the catheter will be taken out.
During the angioplasty procedure, dye is inserted into the catheter. The dye appears on an X-ray screen, giving medical professionals insight as to what blockages may exist. During the procedure, dye may be injected several times to allow doctors to view the affected areas from different vantage points. A patient may need to cough to help remove the dye from the veins or arteries.
If needed, a stent will be inserted in the blocked area during an angioplasty procedure. Stents are positioned on the catheter and are able to be rest against the artery or vein wall. When the catheter is removed, the stent remains inside permanently.
Once the catheter is taken out, pressure will be applied to prevent any bleeding and the area of the skin is then treated with a dressing. Stitches are not required. After the angioplasty procedure, a patient will typically need to rest with his legs upright for a few hours.
For a few hours after the angioplasty procedure, the catheter area will be monitored for any bleeding and swelling. Also, blood pressure and heart will also be watched closely. It is typical for a patient to experience frequent urination soon after the procedure.
After the procedure, a patient will need to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluid. For a day after the procedure, a person will need to avoid performing any heavy lifting. Typically a patient will be required to take medication to prevent blood clotting while the affected area heals.