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Coronary Angioplasty: Before Your Procedure

Balloon and stent in a coronary artery

What is a coronary angioplasty?

Coronary angioplasty is a procedure to open a blocked or narrow coronary artery. Coronary arteries are the blood vessels that bring oxygen to the heart muscle. It may also be called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

Angioplasty helps blood flow more normally to the heart muscle. If you have coronary artery disease, it may be done to relieve angina symptoms such as chest pain or pressure. Angioplasty can also be done during or after a heart attack. As a treatment for a heart attack, it may also prevent heart problems.

Before an angioplasty, a doctor does a coronary angiogram. This finds narrowed or blocked arteries. The doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into an artery in your upper leg (groin) or arm. The doctor moves the catheter through that artery to the coronary arteries. The doctor then uses dye to see any arteries that are blocked or narrowed.

If you have a blocked or narrow artery, a tiny balloon is moved through the catheter. It is used to open the artery. The doctor can also use the balloon to place a stent in the artery to keep it open.

The procedure may take 30 to 90 minutes. But you need time to get ready for it and time to recover. It can take several hours total. You may go home the same day. Or you may stay at least 1 night in the hospital.

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.

How do you prepare for 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

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

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 30 to 90 minutes.
  • After the procedure, pressure will be applied to the area where the catheter was put into your artery. Then you may have a bandage or a compression device on your groin or arm at the catheter insertion site. This will prevent bleeding.
  • Nurses will check your heart rate and blood pressure. The nurse also will check the catheter site for bleeding.
  • If the catheter was put in your groin, you will need to lie still and keep your leg straight for several hours. The nurse may put a weighted bag on your leg.
  • If the catheter was put in your arm, you may be able to sit up right away. But you may need to keep your arm still for at least 2 hours.

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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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.