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Sometimes the cardiologist can widen a narrowed coronary artery with a procedure called coronary angioplasty.
An angioplasty is like a heart catheterization study. A catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin. A small, balloon-tipped tube is threaded through the catheter. It is advanced through the narrowed part of the coronary artery. The balloon is inflated several times which pushes the blockage back against the artery wall. This allows more blood to flow to the heart muscle. Sometimes a tiny wire mesh (stent) is placed over the balloon and is imbedded into the artery wall. This helps prevent the blockage or narrowing from reoccurring.
A laser angioplasty may be performed. In this procedure a laser is used in place of a balloon to reduce the blockage.
Your physician will discuss these with you at the time of your appointment.
You can expect the Short Stay Unit (SSU) nurses to be phoning you at home approximately 1-2 weeks before your angioplasty. The purpose of the call is to complete a health history over the phone and familiarize you with the angioplasty procedure. The call will take about 20 minutes.
You should have a list of your medications handy. You need to tell the nurse if you take pills or insulin for diabetes, if you have any allergies to medications or x-ray dye, or if you have been taking any blood thinners such as Coumadin or Warfarin.
The Day Before Admission
You may have been given a prescription for an antiplatelet drug called Clopidogrel (Plavix) to be started prior to your angioplasty. This medication is prescribed if an intracoronary stent is to be inserted during the angioplasty. Antiplatelets help prevent a clot from being formed at the site of the angioplasty.
The Day of the Angioplasty
You should arrive at the patient registration at 9 a.m. the day of your procedure (main floor at University Hospital) to provide some general information. Bring your health card. This will take approximately 15 minutes.
When you are finished in patient registration, you will be directed to the Short Stay Unit (SSU) where your nurse will review the procedure with you. Your family is welcome to accompany you.
Bring what you will need for an overnight stay. You should make arrangements to have someone drive you home the day after your angioplasty.
You will have an intravenous (IV) started. You will be asked to sign an informed consent before you have your angioplasty. This is your opportunity to ask any questions following a description of the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the procedure. You will have an opportunity to talk to the doctor before the procedure.
After your angioplasty, you will recover in the Short Stay Unit (SSU). You will be on bedrest after the procedure. You can expect to stay overnight and be discharged in the morning if your ECG and blood tests are normal. You may have visitors during your stay in the SSU.
Unless there are any complications such as heavy bleeding, you will be discharged the next morning following the angioplasty. Upon discharge, you should consider the following things:
- You are not to drive for 48 hours after the procedure.
- Gradually return to normal activities.
- Avoid heavy lifting (over 20 pounds) for 24-48 hours.
- Avoid excessive bending at the groin site. You may want to recline your seat on the way home from hospital.
- Remove the band aid the day after the procedure.
- You may shower or bathe as you wish the following day.
- You may return to work within 48 hours unless instructed otherwise by your cardiologist.
Taking care of your leg:
- Check your groin the following morning for signs of bruising, swelling or bleeding.
- It is normal to have some swelling or sometimes a bruise at the groin. If you have a bruise this will extend down your leg over the next few weeks as it heals.
- If you have increased pain with walking, swelling that is getting bigger or numbness, you should see your family doctor.
- If you have a small amount of blood oozing from your groin site, apply pressure and a band-aid or observe it. If the blood oozes through the bandage, see you family doctor.
- If you have a large amount of bleeding from your groin site, it is important to apply pressure to the groin, lie down and contact your closest Emergency Department.
- If you have had a stent inserted, your stent will not be affected by magnetic devices or testing, such as airport metal detectors or an MRI.
You will receive a follow-up phone call approximately 48 hours after you go home. The purpose of this call is to inquire about any questions or concerns you may be having following your angioplasty. You will see your family doctor within one week of discharge.