Coronary Angioplasty

This is the placement of a small flexible catheter to open a blocked artery to the heart.

This is the placement of a small flexible catheter to open a blocked artery to the heart.

Coronary (heart) angioplasty is a procedure that involves threading a small flexible tube, called a catheter, into a large blood vessel in the groin. Sometimes, the catheter is inserted into an artery at the wrist. X-rays are used to gently thread the catheter into the arteries that supply the heart (coronary arteries).

  • A special dye or an ultrasound is used to create detailed pictures of the heart's blood vessels.
  • Once the catheter is in the narrowed or blocked artery, a small balloon at the end of the catheter will be inflated. This opens the artery and allows blood to flow through the vessel to the heart muscle.
  • A stent, or a small mesh tube, may be inserted to keep the artery from closing again.

A coronary angioplasty may be recommended if you have:

  • Had a recent heart attack that is due to a blocked artery and is unlikely to respond to medication and lifestyle changes
  • Persistent chest pain that is found to be caused by narrowed blood vessels supplying the heart and does not respond to medication
  • Increased risk due to known blockages in the arteries that supply your heart, even in the absence of a heart attack or chest pain

This may not be the procedure of choice for all blockages. Treatment depends on the clinical condition of the patient and the location and severity of the blockages. Blockage of the coronary arteries may be treated with medications, watchful waiting, coronary angioplasty, or surgery called a coronary artery bypass graft. An angioplasty may be done on an urgent basis, such as right after or during a heart attack. If it is a planned procedure, ask your cardiologist why they are suggesting this procedure rather than medication or other less-invasive management.

Coronary angioplasty is performed by a cardiologist in a catheterization laboratory.

  • You may be given some medicine to relax. However, you will be awake for the procedure and may feel some discomfort where the catheter is inserted.
  • If the catheter is placed in your groin, you will have to lay flat on your back for several hours to avoid bleeding at the insertion site.
  • Most people go home a day or two after the procedure.
  • Don't forget to make arrangements for transportation to and from the facility and help at home as you recover.

If you and your cardiologist agree that coronary angioplasty is the most appropriate treatment for you, tell them about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Also tell them if you have a seafood allergy or have had problems with any type of dye in the past. Ask about specific instructions you should follow before the procedure. These may include:

  • Medications you should not take before the procedure, such as certain blood thinners
  • Regular medications you should take on the day of your procedure
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before the procedure
  • Any special considerations if you have kidney disease or diabetes

If you are a smoker, you should quit. Smoking can interfere with your recovery.

Some benefit plans recommend or require that members receive treatment for certain conditions (including cancer, bariatric surgery, bowel surgery, and heart procedures/surgeries) at a Center of Excellence (COE) facility.

  • If you have questions on COE benefits, call the number on your health plan ID card or go to and search under the extra programs section on the benefits and coverage tab.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having an angioplasty.

  • What is my diagnosis and reason for the procedure? Are there other alternatives? What are the benefits and risks of each?
  • Are the facilities where you perform the procedure designated as UHC Premium Facilities for cardiac tests and procedures?
  • What is your experience in doing this type of procedure? What is your complication rate?
  • Is there any special preparation for the procedure? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)
  • Will I have any type of sedation? What are the possible side effects?
  • How will having a stent affect my health? Are there special precautions or medications I will need to take after this procedure?
  • What are the possible complications for this procedure?
  • How will I feel after the procedure and will I have to modify my activity?

After your coronary angioplasty, your healthcare provider should provide a description of any problems found during the procedure and what symptoms you should report. You should also understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans. Your cardiologist should also let your primary care physician know what procedure(s) were performed and what the findings were.


Also known as:

Positive Stress Test
Myocardial Infarction
Diagnostic Catheterization
Coronary Angioplasty
Clogged Artery
Chest Pain
Angioplasty of Coronary Artery
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