Coronary Angioplasty, Heart Stent Placement, and Atherectomy: Nonsurgical Procedures

Angioplasty, stenting, and atherectomy are minimally invasive, nonsurgical treatments for narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. Angioplasty and stent placement can alleviate the blockage of an artery and persistent chest pain when medications aren’t working. These procedures are also used in emergency situations, such as when someone is having a heart attack. Angioplasty involves inserting a catheter into the artery through a small puncture.
Angioplasty and stent placement can be lifesaving procedures that can open blocked arteries and improve heart health.

What is angioplasty and stenting?

Percutaneous of transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) is a minimally invasive procedure that opens blocked coronary arteries to improve blood flow to the heart. Angioplasty and the placement of a drug-eluting or bare-metal stent is a type of coronary intervention that takes place inside the arteries on top of the heart. 

Balloon angioplasty is performed by inserting a catheter with a tiny balloon into the blocked artery. When in position, the balloon is inflated to widen the opening in the artery. A cardiac stent is often placed during or immediately after angioplasty to help keep the coronary artery open. Over time, a drug-eluting stent releases medicine that prevents the buildup of plaque inside the stent. 

Angioplasty recovery is generally about two weeks, depending on your condition. Patients must follow their medication schedule in order to prevent a reoccurring heart problem. 

Why you may need coronary angioplasty and stenting

Angioplasty and stenting may be helpful for people with severely blocked arteries or chronic total occlusions. Your doctor may recommend angioplasty as a treatment option if:

  • You have atherosclerotic heart disease or buildup in the arteries that isn’t improving with lifestyle changes or medication. 
  • You have angina (chest pain) that continues to worsen.
  • You have a heart attack. Angioplasty can quickly open a blocked artery, reducing damage to your heart.
  • Your heart muscle is weakened due to blocked arteries on top of the heart. Opening those blockages may restore strength to the heart muscle.

Angioplasty procedure

During this nonsurgical procedure, your physician:

  1. Inserts a catheter (long, thin tube) with a balloon on the tip, preferably through the radial artery in your wrist, or, alternatively, the femoral artery in your groin. 
  2. Guides the catheter to the artery to be treated using fluoroscopy to see equipment on a monitor screen.
  3. Inflates the balloon to open the narrowed artery.
  4. Places a permanent, small mesh scaffold called a stent into the artery to keep it open.

What is atherectomy?

When traditional angioplasty can’t remove calcified plaques, your physician may recommend atherectomy. The AHN Cardiovascular Research Institute helped develop this catheter-based technology.

During this procedure, your physician uses a laser or small, rotating, drill-like device to shave off plaque deposits from inside the blocked artery. In select cases, when lesions are not responsive to traditional therapies, lithotripsy technology may be utilized. In advanced refractory lesions, brachytherapy (localized radiation from inside the artery) may be an option. At AHN, patients have access to every catheter-based therapy to treat coronary artery disease. Please note, brachytherapy is only available at Allegheny General Hospital.

Contact us

Call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 or request an appointment with an AHN cardiologist.