Coronary Angioplasty (Coronary Stenting)

To treat coronary artery disease

A percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as coronary artery angioplasty or coronary artery stent insertion, is a way of treating coronary artery disease that does not involve surgery.

A catheter with a small balloon at the end is inserted through an artery in the groin or arm. The balloon is directed to the blockage using X-ray guidance.  Once in place, the balloon is inflated. This pushes the fatty material out of the path of the blood and improves the blood supply to the heart.  In most cases a stent (short metal tube) will also be left in the artery to keep it open.

What are the benefits?

In most cases the procedure will completely get rid of the symptoms of chest pain or at least reduce the frequency and severity of attacks (together with medication).

This procedure avoids the higher risks associated with surgery and those of a general anaesthetic. Your stay in hospital is relatively short at one or two nights, and you can return to normal activities fairly quickly, usually within a week.

Unlike surgery this procedure can be carried out as often as needed.  Angioplasty can also be carried out on coronary artery vein grafts to extend the life of these bypasses and avoid or postpone another operation.

Are there any alternatives?

For some patients coronary angioplasty is not possible.  Heart bypass surgery or the use of drugs is often advised as being a more suitable treatment when the narrowings in the coronary arteries:

  • are too long or too tight,
  • involve multiple branches and arteries,
  • or when a large artery is completely blocked.

In these cases surgery is the alternative.  In other cases it may be possible to control symptoms with drugs.  Your cardiologist will discuss all these options with you and you may also want to use this opportunity to discuss the effects of not having the procedure.

What are the risks?

All major medical procedures can be associated with a degree of risk. The overall risk of any serious complications occurring during or after the angioplasty procedure is between two to three in a hundred cases.  However, risks will vary from patient to patient and your doctor will explain if you are at an increased risk for any reason.

If you have not already had a diagnostic angiogram it may be difficult to precisely calculate your risk because the extent of your coronary artery disease will not be known.

Consultants linked to treatment


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Case Studies

Patient Video: Treating heart disease with dissolvable stents

Chinese patient, Qingheng Miao, shares his story of being treated for heart disease with a dissolvable stent.