What Is Angioplasty? - Definition, Procedure & Recovery

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  • 0:00 Angioplasty
  • 0:45 Procedure
  • 2:33 Recovery
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Terri Whisenhunt

Terri has taught in nursing programs and has a master's degree in nursing education.

Angioplasty is a specific and common procedure performed in hospitals. In this video, we'll learn why it is done, how it is done and what immediate and short-term recovery involves.


Angioplasty is the process in which a narrowing of a blood vessel is corrected. Any accessible blood vessel in the body can be treated using angioplasty, but we will follow a patient through a heart angioplasty, as it involves a little bit more care during the procedure and recovery time afterwards. Angioplasty uses a balloon catheter. The initial part of the procedure is much the same as an angiogram, or x-ray. The patient goes into a procedure room where he or she is hooked up to heart, oxygen, and blood pressure monitors. Patients may receive medications to help them relax.

Picture of a procedure room where catheterization procedures are done.


The doctor places a hollow tube in a major artery, allowing him or her to thread long catheters through and access the vessels that are being examined. In this picture, dye that is visible under x-ray has been injected into the left coronary vessel and shows a blockage in the left main coronary artery and left anterior descending coronary artery. Normally a left main blockage will require that a patient undergo coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

Picture showing blockages in the coronary arteries.

If doctors find a blockage that can be safely treated with angioplasty, they insert a special catheter with a balloon on the end of it. Before the doctor starts the angioplasty, medications are given to the patient to prevent blood clots from forming on the balloon and stents. The balloon has markers that are visible under x-ray, and the doctor will place it across the blocked area. The balloon is then inflated for several seconds. This may be done multiple times to get the plaque (a fatty buildup that causes the blockage) sufficiently pushed back into the arterial wall. The doctor then uses a different balloon to position a stent, or a small metal mesh device, during the procedure. The doctor may use just a balloon first and then place a stent, or use the stent and balloon together initially. This picture shows the steps involved in the stent placement process.

Picture showing balloon catheter delivering a stent.

Any time the balloon is being inflated, the blood supply downstream of the balloon is blocked off. During this time, medical personnel watch the patient's heart monitor carefully for changes. The patient may feel some discomfort, but when the balloon is deflated, that discomfort will go away.

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