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Angioplasty is treatment designed to open blocked or narrowed arteries. An angioplasty can be used to treat problems in many areas of the body. An angioplasty is called a PTCA when used to treat a coronary artery obstruction and a PTA when treating other arteries. The "P" stands for the work percutaneous which means through the skin. The "T" is trans-luminal which means inside the middle of the artery. The "C" in PTCA identifies the treated artery as coronary. The "A" is for angioplasty. It is called the balloon procedure because of the very tiny balloon that is on the end of a catheter (tube) that has been carefully guided to the narrowed or blocked area. The balloon stretches the artery and flattens the fatty deposits that cause narrowing. The inflating of the balloon can open a nearly closed artery and reestablish blood flow.

What happens during an angioplasty?

The procedure for angioplasty is almost identical to that of an angiogram. An angiogram is performed initially to determine the location and severity of an obstruction in an artery. An angioplasty can be performed during the angiogram or at a later date. By watching the blood flow during the angiogram, the doctor determines if an angioplasty is the best treatment choice for the problem. The doctor will also decide if the angioplasty should be done immediately or delayed and scheduled later.

If angioplasty is the treatment of choice for the narrowed or clogged artery, a small catheter (tube) with a balloon on the end is guided to the area. Once the balloon is in place at the site of the obstruction, the doctor inflates the balloon. The balloon is very strong and the force created during inflation, disrupts (mashes or flattens) the fatty deposit called a plaque.

The medical term use to describe the build up of fatty deposits in arteries is atherosclerosis. Angioplasty does not cure atherosclerosis. Angioplasty is only a treatment for the narrowed or obstructed artery and is used to improve blood flow.

Angioplasty is used to treat obstructions in the arteries leading to the kidneys and the legs. Angioplasty can be used to correct obstructions in the carotid artery leading to the brain and in the coronaries that feed the heart.

In some situations, a stent (a small, flexible, metal spring-like device) may be used after the angioplasty. The stent acts like a scaffold and remains in place to keep the artery open.

Learn about robot-assisted angioplasty for the treatment of coronary artery disease.

Our capabilities

We provide full service care for individuals with cardiac and vascular disease. State-of-the-art cardiac catheterization and angiography suites are available at both the Walnut Creek Medical Center and Concord Medical Center. Expert interventional cardiologist, interventional radiologists, and vascular surgeons are also on staff.