Coronary angioplasty and stents
Coronary angioplasty – or PCI and PTCA – is a
procedure that helps treat coronary heart disease and angina.
This treatment helps improve the blood supply to your heart
muscle by widening narrowed coronary arteries and
inserting a small tube called a stent.
Angioplasty can help to relieve angina symptoms
and is also used as an emergency treatment for people
who've had a heart
What happens during an angioplasty?
You’ll have an angiogram
before your angioplasty to look inside your arteries
and check where the blockages are and how much they
are blocked. An angiogram often happens as part
of the same procedure.
An angioplasty normally takes between 30 minutes and two hours,
although it can take longer.
- At the start of the procedure you'll be given a local
anaesthetic to numb the area. Then a catheter – a fine,
flexible, hollow tube – with a small inflatable balloon at its tip
is passed into an artery in either your groin or your arm.
- Some dye (contrast) is injected into the catheter and the
arteries can be seen on an x-ray screen. It's normal to feel a hot
flushing sensation when the dye is injected.
- The operator then directs the catheter up to the heart
and into a coronary artery until its tip reaches a narrow or
- The balloon is then gently inflated so that it squashes
the fatty plaques - or deposits - against the artery
wall, widening the artery and allowing the blood to flow more
- A stent - a small tube of stainless steel mesh - is
already in place on the balloon. As the balloon is inflated,
the stent expands so that it holds open the narrowed artery. The
balloon is let down and removed, leaving the stent in place.
- Some people may feel a palpitation, and you might feel some
angina. If you feel unwell, or have pain at any time during the
procedure, tell the team.
When the test is over, the catheters are removed. Sometimes
there might be a small amount of bleeding when they are taken out.
A nurse or doctor will press on the area for a short while or they
may put in a plug called an angioseal to stop any
bleeding. After the procedure, you’ll need to stay in bed for a
In the first few hours afterwards you might get some chest
discomfort. If this happens, tell the doctor or nurse.
Leaving hospital after an angioplasty
Most people can go home the same day or the next day, but if
you’ve had an emergency angioplasty it’s likely you’ll need to stay
in hospital for longer.
When you get home, check the area where the catheter was
inserted. Expect to have some bruising and tenderness, but if you
get any redness or swelling, or if the bruising worsens,
contact your doctor.
Before you leave hospital, someone will have a chat with you
about your recovery and what you can and can’t do. It’s normal to
feel tired afterwards but most people find that they’re back to
normal after a few days. However if you’ve also had a heart attack, it will take longer to
- It’s best to avoid doing any demanding activities, such as
heavy lifting, for a week or so.
- You shouldn’t drive
for at least a week after having angioplasty – longer if you also
had a heart attack.
- If you’ve had a planned angioplasty with no complications you
may be able to return to work within a few days, depending on the
type of work you do.
- If you’ve had an emergency angioplasty or a heart attack you
may need to take a few weeks off.
You should also be invited to go on a cardiac rehabilitation programme, a course
of exercise and information sessions that help you to recover as
quickly as possible.
If you have a stent, you’ll need to take certain
anti-platelet drugs (such as aspirin or
clopidegrel) to help reduce the risk of blood clots forming in and
around the stent.
Stents are not affected by security systems at airports or MRI
What should I do if I get chest pain after I get home?
If you get chest pain, stop and rest and take your GTN
as prescribed. If the pain doesn’t ease, call 999 immediately. You
could be having a heart attack.
How successful is coronary angioplasty?
In most cases the blood flow through the artery is improved.
Many people find that their symptoms get better and they’re able to
Sometimes the artery can become narrowed again, causing angina
to return. But advances in stent technology mean that the risk of
this happening is getting lower. Many people are now symptom-free
for a long time.
A small number of people have complications. The risk varies
depending on your overall health and your individual heart
condition. Have a chat with your doctor about the benefits and
possible risks of having an angioplasty and any concerns you may
Our researchers are working to improve
angioplasty techniques and to find ways of preventing arteries from
becoming narrow again after angioplasty.
Find out how
your support can make a difference.