If your physician has identified a blockage in one or more of your arteries, he or she may determine that you could benefit from angioplasty and stenting. Angioplasty is a procedure performed by interventional cardiologists to reopen a blocked artery. The interventional cardiologist threads a thin tube called a catheter through the artery to the blocked heart artery. Then a tiny balloon at the end of the catheter is opened and closed to push the blockage aside and restore blood flow through the artery. After angioplasty, a metal mesh tube called a stent is placed at the site of the former blockage to prop the artery open.
Stent placement can take as little as an hour (not counting preparation and recovery time), but it also can take up to several hours depending on the number and location of the narrowings, the number of stents and the complexity of the narrowings in your heart arteries. You will be awake for the procedure, though you will receive anesthesia or slight sedation. You might experience angina pain or slight discomfort in your chest when your cardiologist is inflating the balloon or the stent. If this is the case, additional pain-killers, such as morphine, can be provided during the procedure. Usually the discomfort lasts only a few seconds and goes away gradually as soon as the balloon is deflated. You should inform the cardiologist who is performing this procedure if this occurs. Hospital stays range from 1 to 3 days, again depending on the complexity of the procedure.