Peripheral Artery Angioplasty: Before Your Procedure

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What is a peripheral artery angioplasty?

Peripheral artery angioplasty (say "puh-RIFF-er-rull AR-ter-ree ANN-jee-oh-plass-tee") is a procedure to treat peripheral arterial disease of the legs. The procedure widens narrowed arteries in the pelvis or legs. It can help blood flow better. This may decrease leg pain or help wounds heal better.

Your arteries can get narrowed by a substance called plaque. Plaque is a buildup of fats in your arteries.

You will be awake for the procedure. You will get medicine to prevent pain and help you relax. First, your doctor will do a test to find narrowed arteries. He or she will put a tiny tube into an artery in your groin or leg. This tube is called a catheter. The doctor moves the catheter through the artery and puts a dye into it. The dye makes your arteries show up on X-ray pictures. This lets the doctor see any narrowed parts of the arteries.

If your doctor finds a narrowed artery, he or she may do an angioplasty. To do this, the doctor uses a catheter with a balloon at the tip. It goes into the artery in your groin or leg. He or she moves the balloon to the narrowed area and inflates it. The balloon presses the plaque against the walls of the artery. This makes more room for blood to flow. The doctor may also put a stent in your artery. A stent is a small tube that helps keep the artery open. It can also keep small pieces of plaque from breaking off and causing problems.

You may need to spend the night in the hospital. For 1 or 2 days after the procedure, you will need to take it easy at home.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the procedure. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.
  • Tell your doctor if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish. Iodine is used in the dye that the doctor uses to find the narrowed arteries.
  • For several days before the procedure, do not shave your legs or groin. The skin could get irritated. This could lead to infection.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • The procedure will take 1½ to 3 hours.
  • After the procedure, pressure will be applied to the area where the catheter was put in your blood vessel. Then the area may be covered with a bandage or a compression device. This will prevent bleeding.
  • Nurses will check your heart rate and blood pressure. The nurse will also check the catheter site for bleeding.
  • You will need to lie still and keep your leg straight for several hours. The nurse may put a weighted bag on your leg to keep it still.
  • You may have a bruise or a small lump where the catheter was put in your blood vessel. This is normal and will go away.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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