Balloon Angioplasty and Stenting

  • Stent used in angioplasty

Angioplasty is a technique for unblocking blocked or narrowed arteries to improve blood flow. Local anaesthetic is used to insert a fine catheter (tube) into the femoral artery in the groin and the catheter is manipulated to the site of the problem. Then a balloon is inflated to dilate the artery at the site of the block. This opens up the blood vessel and improves blood flow. Sometimes the result is improved by inserting a stent which is a fine metal mesh which provides support to keep the artery wide open after the balloon has been removed.

What is Balloon Angioplasty and Stenting?

This technique is used widely in all parts of the body including the coronary arteries but also the arteries supplying the internal organs, limbs and the brain. In many cases the use of angioplasty avoids the need for an operation.

Are there any risks I should be aware of?

At the site where the balloon is inserted:A little bruising at the site where the balloon is inserted is common (usually in the groin). Occasionally, swelling and a larger bruise (haematoma) may occur. This may require transfusion and/or surgery and a longer stay in hospital. The chances of this happening are less than 4% (1 in 25). The risk of blocking the artery at the site of insertion is 0.5% (1 in 200). 

Damage to your arteries:There is a small risk of damage to your artery at the point where it is stretched (rupture or perforation requiring surgery). The risk of this happening is less than 0.5% (1 in 200). The risk of an unintended blockage of the selected blood vessel is less than 3% (1 in 33). Rarely, some of the chalky substance (atheroma) blocking the artery may become dislodged and block a blood vessel elsewhere. The risk of this happening is less than 0.5% (1 in 200). The chances of needing emergency surgery is less than 3% (1 in 33). Such an operation can be serious and clearly carries extra risks. It is possible that the Balloon Angioplasty will not work in your case. Sometimes it is impossible to pass the balloon through the blocked or narrowed artery. Even after successful treatment the artery may narrow again after a while, in which case your symptoms may recur. This is much more likely to happen if you smoke.In your case, the potential benefits of Balloon Angioplasty have been judged to outweigh the risks.

What is it used for?

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