Peripheral Arterial Angioplasty and Stent

Cross section of artery in muscle with stent in place to hold artery open. Arrow shows improved blood flow.

Peripheral arterial angioplasty is a procedure done to treat a narrowed or blocked artery in your arm or leg. This brings blood flow back to your arm or leg. It also helps ease symptoms. Sometimes a metal mesh tube called a stent may be put in your artery. This holds your artery open. The procedure is done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Before your procedure

Follow any instructions you are given on how to get ready.

Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

Tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • Are breastfeeding

  • Are allergic to X-ray dye (contrast medium) or other medicines

Tell your provider about any medicines you are taking. You may need to stop taking all or some of these before the procedure. This includes:

  • All prescription medicines

  • Over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen

  • Street drugs

  • Herbs, vitamins, and other supplements

During your procedure

  • An IV (intravenous) line is put into your vein. This is to give you fluids and medicines. You may be given medicine to help you relax and make you sleepy (sedation). Medicine will be put on your skin where the cut (incision) will be done. This is to keep you from feeling pain at the site.

  • A very small incision is made at the insertion site. A thin, flexible tube (catheter) is put through the incision into your artery. The radiologist watches the catheter’s movement on a screen.

  • X-ray dye is injected through the catheter into your artery. This helps to see the artery more clearly on the X-rays. The radiologist uses these images as a guide. He or she moves the catheter to the narrowed or blocked part of your artery.

  • When the catheter reaches the narrowed or blocked area, the radiologist inflates a special balloon attached to the catheter. This is called angioplasty. Inflating the balloon widens the passage through the artery.

  • Sometimes the artery won't stay open after the angioplasty. In this case, a stent is needed. A catheter with a stent attached is threaded through the artery. When the stent is in the right place, it is opened.

  • When the procedure is done, all catheters and balloons are removed. The stent stays in place. Pressure is put on the insertion site for 15 minutes to stop bleeding.

After your procedure

  • Your provider will tell you how long to lie down and keep the insertion site still.

  • You may stay in the hospital for a few hours or overnight.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the X-ray dye from your body.

  • After you go home, care for the insertion site as directed.

  • You may need to take aspirin or a blood-thinning medicine (anticoagulant) after the procedure. This is to help prevent blood clots in the stent. Talk with your provider about this.

Possible risks and complications

All procedures have some risk. Possible risks of peripheral arterial angioplasty and stent include:

  • Bleeding or infection at the catheter insertion site

  • Damage to the artery. This includes worsening of the blockage.

  • Problems because of X-ray dye. These include allergic reaction or kidney damage.

  • Artery becomes blocked again (restenosis). This often happens within 6 to 18 months.

  • Low-level exposure to x-ray radiation. This is considered a safe level.

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© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.