What Is Angioplasty?

Angioplasty, or percutaneous coronary intervention, is a nonsurgical procedure used to open clogged or narrow coronary arteries, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. A catheter is inserted through the skin in the upper thigh or arm and into the artery, restoring blood flow to the heart muscle.

A permanent stent, or a small wire mesh tube, is combined with angioplasty to decrease the artery's chance of narrowing again, according to Mayo Clinic. Drug-eluting stents have a medicine coating that helps prop the artery open after the angioplasty. The procedure generally takes 30 to 40 minutes, but preparation and recovery time can account for several hours, adds WebMD.

Angioplasty can help relieve symptoms associated with clogged arteries, including shortness of breath and chest pain. During a heart attack, angioplasty can be used to open a clogged artery, reducing heart damage. Angioplasty is used to treat heart conditions such as atherosclerosis, especially when medications and lifestyle changes do not help improve heart health, according to Mayo Clinic. Angioplasty is not recommended for people with weak heart muscles, multiple diseased blood vessels, or a narrow main artery that brings blood to the left part of the heart. Doctors may recommend coronary artery bypass surgery instead of angioplasty to people with diabetes and multiple blockages, according to Mayo Clinic.