Unblocking the coronary arteries

Understanding Angioplasty & Stenting

What is it?

Angioplasty and stenting may be performed after your cardiologist determines that your coronary arteries are becoming blocked. These procedures may also be performed on emergency basis if you are having a heart attack.

How is it done?

You are given medication through an IV to help you relax. Your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen level are monitored throughout the procedure.

After you are given a medication to numb the area, a small incision is made in either your thigh or wrist. A thin tube called a sheath is inserted. Then a longer and thinner tube called a catheter is slid into the sheath.

With the help of x-ray images to guide the procedure, the catheter is moved through your blood vessels to the site of the blockage. A balloon at the end of the catheter is then inflated, squeezing the fatty deposits against the walls of the blood vessel and widening the artery. Once the balloon is deflated, blood flow to your heart is restored.

In most cases, balloon angioplasty is combined with the placement of a stent. A stent is a tiny, wire-mesh tube that is used to hold a blood vessel open. It helps to prevent restenosis, or re-narrowing of your blood vessel.

A stent starts out in collapsed form. It is put around the deflated balloon at the end of a catheter, then inserted into a blood vessel and guided toward the blocked artery.

When the balloon is inflated, it opens up the stent as it pushes plaque out of the way and widens your artery. When the balloon is deflated, the stent stays in place to keep your artery open.

Angioplasty and stenting are also used to open blood vessels in other parts of the body, including the arteries in the neck, legs and kidneys.


Your doctor will discuss the risks of these procedures with you. Some of the risks include the following:

  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to medications
  • Bleeding at site of incision
  • Acute closure of coronary artery
  • Chest pain or angina
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Blood clots

Technology and expertise at Lee Health

Lee Health have some of the most advanced cardiac catheterization labs in the region. We offer cardiac catherizations at three locations: HealthPark Medical Center and Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, and Cape Coral Hospital in Cape Coral.

Our doctors are all fellowship trained, the highest level of training available. In 2011, we performed 2086 angioplasty procedures. A high volume is considered one of the best predictors of an excellent outcome.

The cardiac catheterization labs at Lee Health are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We offer many procedures that are not available anywhere else in the region.

Lee Health offers catheterizations through the arm, using the radial artery approach, allowing patients the comfort of sitting up during the procedure. We are actively involved in the latest research, and able to consistently provide our patients with the most advanced and safest procedures.

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