Angioplasty is a unique procedure designed to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels supplying the heart. These vessels are known as coronary arteries. A stent for your coronary arteries is nothing but a small, metal mesh tube that expands once inserted properly. Typically, a stent is placed during or immediately following angioplasty to prevent the artery from closing up once more.
All About Angioplasty and Stents
To start the procedure, you’ll receive what is known as a cardiac catheterization. Pain medication is provided to relax you beforehand. The catheter itself is a thin plastic tube known as a sheath, which is then inserted directly into an artery – typically along the groin, and sometimes the arm.
The most generic form of angioplasty involves a stent. A stent is essentially a scaffold for your coronary arteries. First, a balloon catheter, placed over a guiding wire, helps guide the stent into the narrowed artery. Once the stent is in place, the balloon inflates to force the artery open. The stent is left behind while the balloon is deflated and removed. Over the next few weeks, the artery will heal around the stent, using it as a guide for better healing.
After an angioplasty, you’ll need to lie completely flat in the hospital for around 6 hours. This seems excessive, but it is to prevent bleeding. Your nurse may raise your head using pillows after 2 hours. Until the groin sheath is removed, you will be required to avoid eating or drinking anything but clear liquids.
If a catheter was inserted into the arm, however, the doctor will apply a bandage to ensure it heals properly. This bandage and catheter will be in place for a few hours.