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The walls of our veins are usually elastic and very smooth to ensure free blood flow. Consuming cholesterol rich food for decades always takes its toll and leaves its traces on our circulatory system. Cholesterol-based plaques settle on the walls of blood vessels making them inflexible and narrowed, which will impede free blood flow. In serious cases even a full block of circulation can evolve.

Angioplasty is the non-surgical opening up or widening of veins through a catheter that carries an inflatable balloon. In more general terms any dimensional treatment of a blood vessel can be labelled angioplasty, which sometimes involves a stent to be placed in the vein to ensure width and adequate blood flow permanently.

 The Angioplasty Procedure

  • It is considered a non-surgical intervention.
  • The patient is usually awake during the intervention with local anesthetics applied.
  • Placing the catheter does not take more than 30 minutes, but it can add up to between 5-9 hours with additional interventions, preparation and convalescence.
  • On a small incision the balloon catheter is inserted and inflated in the narrowed part of the vein. Stent is placed if necessary.
  • Patients are usually let home after an overnight stay in hospital.
  • Post-operation checkups are essential to control blood pressure and to monitor the incision.
  • Anti-spasm and anti-coagulant medication is prescribed. Anti-coagulant is necessary in case of stents and sometimes need to be taken for a year.
  • You can expect to be back to work within about a week, but you are to avoid physical strain and exercise for two weeks.


 It is common to distinguish three types of angioplasty:

  1. Coronary angioplasty – It treats narrowed coronary arteries of the heart to relieve chest pain and prevent a heart attack.
  2. Peripheral angioplasty – To treat blood vessel narrowing of the limbs, abdomen and renal arteries.
  3. Cerebral angioplasty

The two most frequently performed angioplasty procedures are coronary angioplasty and angioplasty performed on legs.

 Coronary Angioplasty

Atherosclerosis is a condition that evolves because of the excessive buildup of cholesterol on the inner walls of the arteries that block the blood flow to the heart. One to the symptoms of atherosclerosis is chest pain or serious blocks can provoke a heart attack.

 Diagnostic method

With the help of a cardiac catheter, special X-ray imaging and the injection of contrast material, a coronary angiography is performed that serves as a map to the heart’s chambers, arteries, valves and their possible blocks.

For further, more detailed imaging the so called intra-vascular ultrasound is used to determine the exact location and the seriousness of the plaque buildup.

 The Treatment

  • Balloon angioplasty is used to increase the perimeter of the blood vessel by inflating a balloon and pressing the fatty buildups to the walls to free the flow of flood. In this technique the risks involve restenosis.
  • Balloon angioplasty and stenting – The stent serves to keep the artillery permanently open after the balloon is inflated to avoid restenosis. A version of stent has a special drug releasing capacities that affects the site of the narrowing (so called drug-eluting stent).
  • Cutting balloon – This form of catheter has small blades that are able to ‘cut’ the plaque and the balloon presses its remnants into the blood vessel wall.
  • Rotablation – It is a highly efficient method in which the catheter is equipped with a diamond tip that can grind the plague from the artery walls.

After the angioplasty procedure is completed, certain conditions require further surgery.

 Leg Angioplasty

In angioplasty legs are given an incision and a catheter is placed to open up or widen blood vessels and improve blood flow. Mostly the aorta or the iliac arteries are targeted and reached with the balloon before a stent is placed to maintain the artery open. (In side leg arteries it is not very common to use a stent)

 Benefits of leg angioplasty

  • It relieves pain in the legs.
  • Improves blood flow.
  • Treatment of large arteries has a much higher success rate, about 60-80%, than that of smaller arteries.
  • Can prevent amputation