Coronary angioplasty

Widen blocked or narrow arteries for angina or following a heart attack.

Angioplasty is a procedure to widen blocked or narrow arteries in the heart. It is usually performed on people with angina or who have had a heart attack.

After the procedure, the blood flow through the affected arteries improves in most people and helps to relieves or reduces symptoms of angina such as chest pains.

Why you might need it

We understand that symptoms such as chest pain or a diagnosis of angina or coronary heart disease may cause you worry and stress. Our professional, highly-qualified and caring staff are here for you every step of the way.

Angioplasty is commonly used to increase blood flow through an artery or arteries after a person has had a heart attack or to relieve the symptoms of angina. Your heart needs a constant flow of blood that is delivered through arteries (blood vessels). If you've been diagnosed with angina then fatty deposits have slowed down the flow of blood in one or more of these arteries.

Often medicines can reduce such blockages but some patients will still this procedure.

The NHS say that many people with angina find their "symptoms get significantly better" after this procedure while it reduces the risk of people who've had a heart attack experiencing another one.

To find out if coronary angioplasty is the most suitable operation for you, you will first need to have an examination called cardiac catheterisation. Sometimes cardiac catheterisation progresses straight to angioplasty during the same operation.

During coronary angioplasty, a tiny balloon is inserted on the end of a long thin tube called a catheter and one of our highly-trained consultants will guide it to the damaged artery or arteries. By pushing the fat against the side of the artery, the balloon will open up space for the blood to flow. In most cases a stent is then implanted - a stainless steel mesh tube - that stays permanently in place to keep the artery wall open.

You are likely to have a local anaesthetic so you will be awake but in no pain during the procedure. It typically lasts around an hour but this depends on how many arteries are being treated.

An angioplasty usually requires a night in hospital.

We pride ourselves on our clinical excellence, you'll be looked after by an experienced multi-disciplinary care team.

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Who will do it?

Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see, and when you want. They'll be with you every step of the way.

All of our consultants are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.

Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-specialty surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.

Before your treatment

You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.

We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.

We will talk to you about making sure that angioplasty is right for you. If you have angina, they will normally recommend a cardiac catheterisation to confirm that angiography is the right procedure for you.

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Preparing for your treatment

We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.

For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.

Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.

The procedure

Having any type of medical treatment can potentially be a time of worry and anxiety. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, holding your hand, every step of the way.

The operation is normally performed under local anaesthetic which means you'll be awake but won't feel any pain. One of our nurses will be with you to provide reassurance and you may be offered sedation to help ensure that you are relaxed and comfortable.

The first part of the operation, when your consultant uses X-ray control to guide a catheter to the affected artery, is very much like cardiac catheterisation. The catheter, a small, thin tube will be inserted through a small cut made in your arm or groin.

The small balloon is attached to a thin wire which your surgeon will guide to the fatty deposits in the artery with the help of the catheter. They'll then inflate the tiny balloon to push the fatty deposits against the artery wall so blood can flow more freely. The catheter might also be used to insert a stent (a short wire tube) into the artery to help blood flow freely through the artery over a longer term. Your consultant will advise whether a stent is suitable in your case.

The balloon is then deflated and removed. The whole procedure normally lasts about an hour depending on how many arteries are being treated.


An angioplasty usually requires a night in hospital.

After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you’re ready to go home.

You will need to lie flat on your bed for a few hours to allow the cut in your groin or arm to seal properly.

Your friends and family will be able to visit pretty much anytime you want – we have flexible visiting hours.

Pain relief

You might feel some tenderness where the catheter was inserted - normally in your lower arm or groin. We'll give you appropriate pain relief before you leave hospital, please continue to take painkillers as advised by the hospital if you need them. We'll also talk to you about, and provide or prescribe, blood-thinning drugs you'll need to take if you've had a stent inserted.

Recovery time

You'll need to rest for a few days and avoid strenuous activities for about a week. That includes heavy lifting - so if you live alone make sure you have a friend or relative who can do your shopping and any other demanding household tasks.

You're likely to have some bruising where the catheter was inserted but this will go after a few days. Keep an eye on the wound as it's possible for an infection to develop.

This might be a good time to start reading and following the healthy lifestyle advice we'll give you on departure.

You can also probably start driving again after a week. But if you drive a heavy vehicle you need to tell the DVLA (the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) you've had a coronary angioplasty. The agency is likely to ask for further tests before allowing you to return to driving work.

End result

Many people with angina find their symptoms get 'significantly better' after this procedure while it reduces the risk of people who've had a heart attack experiencing another one. Many people with angina find that symptoms such as chest pains are much better and they can do more than previously.

Looking after you

Even after you've left hospital we're still looking every step of the way. You'll have an appointment to see your consultant again after the operation to see how you're doing.

As with all medical treatments, complications can occur after an angioplasty. These include infection and in a small number of cases the coronary artery gets completely blocked during the operation. This can result in a heart attack. In rare cases, the tip of the catheter can dislodge a clot of blood or fatty plaque from the wall of a blood vessel. It is possible for these to block an artery leading to the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke. Your consultant will discuss possible risks and complications relating to coronary angioplasty and how they apply to you before the procedure.

If the area round your cut starts to swell or bleed continuously, you get a high temperature or fever, or the colour or sensation of your legs changes, you should contact the hospital for advice immediately as it could be an indication that your wound has become infected.

If you have any questions or concerns about your recovery, we're ready to help.

Why choose Spire?

We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.

Important to note

The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.

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