Term: Balloon Angioplasty


Also known as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), a balloon angioplasty is a common treatment for patients with built up plaque on their artery walls (atherosclerosis). A balloon angioplasty is preformed to physically open the channel of the bloacked arterial segment in order to relieve chest pain and reduce the need for bypass surgery. The procedure can offer the patient an increased quality of life through reduction of complication of blocked arteries. The balloon angioplasty was first performed in 1977 by Andreas Gruentzig, a Swedish physician. In 2004, 660,000 balloon angioplasties were performed (this is the last year the the data was available).


During a balloon angioplasty procedure, an incision is made in the skin and a guide wire is fed up to the clog in the artery. Once the guide wire is placed at the opening of the clogged artery, a catheter is inserted with an angioplasty balloon at the end of it. Once the balloon makes it to the site of plaque build-up, the balloon inflates causing the plaque to compress and crack against the artery wall. The artery wall then expands to create a uniform artery width for optimal blood-flow. After a balloon angioplasty, a mesh stent is usually inserted through the same guide on a balloon catheter that expands the stent to form to the artery wall. This stent will prevent further issues by holding the artery open. In comparison to a surgical treatment, a balloon angioplasty is a rather low-risk, low-cost option and is always preferred within 2-6 hours of the symptom onset and where a surgical backup solution is possible.


As mentioned above, a balloon angioplasty is a relatively low-risk procedure. The surgery itself can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on where the clogged artery is and how many balloon catheters need to be placed. As with all surgeries, bleeding an infection are risks, however, the risk of death during the surgery is extremely low, as are the chances of returning for an emergency bypass surgery in the future. Blood clots and the re-narrowing of your artery (restenosis) may also occur.


This procedure is often used to to decrease the pain associated with coronary artery disease by holding the artery open and decreasing tension at the place of plaque build-up. In some emergency rooms and hospitals, balloon angioplasty is used to treat heart attacks. The balloon angioplasty can also be used to prevent heart attacks and other severe consequences caused by clogged arteries.


external image tool_balloon.gif

Related Terminology:

Coronary Angioplasty,
Cerebral Angioplasty,
Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty,
Angioplasty, Peripheral Percutaneous Transluminal Angioplasty,
PTCA, Balloon Dilation
Coronary Artery Disease

Web Resources:

Balloon Angioplasty - iVillage
Angioplasty & Stent Placement - MedLine Plus
Mayo Clinic
Heart Site


Elhendy, Abdou. "Balloon Angioplasty". iVillage. 10/14/2009 <http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com/balloon-angioplasty.html?pageNum=1#1>.