Angioplasty and stent placement - peripheral arteries


Angioplasty (ballooning) is a procedure to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels that supply blood to your legs. These arteries can become blocked with fatty material that builds up inside them. This is called atherosclerosis.

A stent is a small, metal mesh tube that keeps the artery open.

Angioplasty and stent placement are two ways to open blocked peripheral arteries.

See also:

Alternative Names

Percutaneous transluminal angioplasty - peripheral artery; PTA - peripheral artery; Angioplasty - peripheral arteries


In angioplasty, your blocked artery is widened with a medical "balloon." The balloon presses against the inside wall of your artery to open your artery and improve blood flow. To prevent the artery from narrowing again, a tiny metal stent is placed across the artery wall.

To treat a blockage in your leg, angioplasty can be done in the following arteries:

Before the procedure:

Your surgeon will then place a tiny needle into the blood vessel in your groin. Through this needle, a tiny flexible wire will be inserted.

A stent may also be placed in the blocked area. The stent is inserted at the same time as the balloon catheter. It expands when the balloon is blown up. The stent is left in place to help keep the artery open. The balloon and all the wires are then removed.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Symptoms of a blocked peripheral artery are pain, achiness, or heaviness in your leg that starts or gets worse when you walk.

You may not need this procedure if you can still do most of your everyday activities. Your doctor can try medicines and other treatments first.

Reasons for having this surgery are:

Before angioplasty is considered, the doctor will order special tests to show that you have a severe blockage in your blood vessels.


Risks of angioplasty and stent placement are:

Before the Procedure

During the 2 weeks before surgery:

Do NOT drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery, including water.

On the day of your surgery:

After the Procedure

The average hospital stay for this procedure is 2 days or less. Some people may not even have to stay overnight in the hospital. You should be able to walk around within 6 - 8 hours after the procedure.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Angioplasty improves artery blood flow for most people. However, results will depend on where your blockage was, the size of your blood vessel, and how much of a blockage you may have in your other arteries.

Having angioplasty may make open bypass surgery unnecessary. If it does not help, your surgeon may need to do open bypass surgery, or even amputation.

Angioplasty does not cure the cause of the blockage in your arteries. Your arteries may become narrow again. Follow your heart-healthy diet, exercise, stop smoking (if you smoke), and reduce your stress to help lower your chances of having a blocked artery again. Your health care provider may prescribe medicine to help lower your cholesterol.


Creager MA and Libby P. Peripheral arterial disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Libby: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Saunders; 2007:chap 57.

Eisenhauer AC, White CJ. Endovascular treatment of noncoronary obstructive vascular disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 59.

Review Date: 1/25/2011
Reviewed By: Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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