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When Is Coronary Angioplasty Recommended?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Feb 21, 2023

When Is Coronary Angioplasty Recommended?

Coronary angioplasty is a medical intervention done to stretch open an artery in the heart. If your doctor recommended this treatment for you, here are the essential things to know about it.

What Is Coronary Angioplasty?

Coronary artery angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention or balloon angioplasty, is a medical procedure that improves blood flow to the heart by opening a clogged artery.

You see, a narrowed or blocked artery prevents oxygen from reaching certain parts of the heart. This is problematic because, like any other muscle in the body, our heart needs an adequate supply of oxygen to function well. Moreover, the lack of oxygen in one or several areas of the heart can lead to a heart attack or myocardial infarction.

During a coronary angioplasty procedure, the doctor inserts a balloon catheter into the blocked or narrowed artery. Once in place, they inflate the balloon, pushing the blood vessel open. Afterward, they’ll remove the balloon catheter.

coronary angioplasty

Nowadays, many doctors also perform stent placement after the angioplasty procedure. In stent placement, there’s an expandable, medicated mesh wire (stent) around the balloon catheter. When the doctor inflates the balloon, the mesh wire expands and is left in place. The medicated stent reduces the risk of re-narrowing.

coronary angioplasty

When Do Doctors Recommend Coronary Angioplasty? 

Atherosclerosis happens when the arteries harden due to the buildup of plaque. This condition can affect any artery, including the coronary arteries which carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart.  When atherosclerosis occurs in the coronary arteries, the person is said to have coronary artery disease or CAD.

Doctors sometimes recommend coronary angioplasty when medications and lifestyle changes no longer improve CAD symptoms, which may include shortness of breath and chest pain (angina).

They might also advise you to have balloon angioplasty if the blockage or narrowing of the artery poses a heart failure risk.

And finally, during and after a heart attack, coronary angioplasty is a quick way to stretch open the artery and reduce damage to the heart.

Balloon angioplasty is not for everyone…

Even if you have the conditions we explained above, please note that the doctor may still not recommend coronary angioplasty if the narrowing is too severe or they know that they wouldn’t be able to reach the affected area during the procedure.

Furthermore, people who have multiple blockages and diabetes might benefit more from coronary artery bypass surgery, a procedure that “bypasses” a blocked artery using a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body.

What are the Risks of Coronary Angioplasty?

Balloon angioplasty is less invasive than coronary artery bypass surgery, but it still poses risks such as:

  • Re-narrowing of the artery. Although rare, the risk that the artery will become narrow again is there, even if you use a medicated stent.
  • Blood clots. Clots can occur within the stent, that’s why patients need to take blood thinners like aspirin. Please keep in mind that clots can clog the artery and result in a heart attack.
  • Bleeding. Of course, there’s a risk of bleeding in the area where the catheter was inserted.

The other risks and complications associated with coronary angioplasty are:

  • Allergic reaction to the medication in the stent or dye in the catheter.
  • Damage to the blood vessel.
  • Stroke; although cases are rare because patients take blood thinners, blood clots may travel to the brain and cause stroke.
  • Arrhythmias
  • Kidney problems due to the dye in the catheter.

Outcomes After Balloon Angioplasty

In most cases, coronary angioplasty greatly improves the blood flow to the heart, significantly improving the symptoms and reducing the need for more invasive procedures like bypass surgery.

However, please remember that balloon angioplasty doesn’t cure the condition that causes narrowed arteries.

For this reason, you must work closely with your doctor to improve your heart health and prevent another blockage or narrowing of your artery. Be proactive in quitting smoking, following a healthy diet, having regular physical activity, and controlling any underlying health conditions you might have.

Learn more about Heart Health here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Feb 21, 2023

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