Every year, about 600,000 Americans undergo an angioplasty. This procedure, although generally safe, causes many people to develop apprehensions due to fear of the unknown. In fact, the results of a previous study indicated that the preparation period before an angioplasty “represents a period of adjustment that may be anxiety provoking.”
To mitigate your anxiety and fears, it’s best to learn as much as you can in the lead up to this important procedure.
What is An Angioplasty?
An angioplasty is an approximately two-hour minimally invasive procedure involving the placement of a small tube (called a catheter) into a narrowed artery, with the use an inflated balloon which opens the blocked artery and restores healthy blood flow. Angioplasties are performed by an interventional cardiologist and recommended when an angiography (an X-ray test of your arteries) reveals a coronary blockage.
Ask Questions – Once your angioplasty is recommended and scheduled, you should to adopt an inquisitive attitude. Bring a list of questions to ask your physician. These questions might relate to what the procedure entails, its risks, benefits, or anything else that may come to mind.
Divulge Important Information – You should inform your physician about all medications (prescription or over-the-counter) and natural remedies you take before your angioplasty. Specifically, if you are a diabetic who requires insulin, you should ask your physician for instructions on recommended dosages prior to your examination. Also, tell your cardiologist if you’re on any blood thinners, such as Coumadin, so that it can be stopped before your procedure to prevent serious bleeding events. Moreover, you will need to notify your physician if you have ever had a reaction to contrast dye (used during the procedure) or if you are allergic to iodine, latex, or seafood.
Eating – Consuming food less than six hours prior to angioplasty is strictly prohibited. You are, however, allowed to drink clear liquids up to two hours prior to the procedure. These permissible liquids include water, apple juice, and tea. Also, you should abstain from orange juice, which is not considered a clear liquid.
Smoking – You should not smoke for at least 24 hours leading up to your angioplasty.
The Day of the Angioplasty
The day of your angioplasty when you arrive in the radiology department, you will be administered standard blood tests to ensure your safety. Once changing into your hospital gown, a member of the radiology team will insert an intravenous (IV) line into one of your veins which will be used supply you with the necessary fluids and medicines during your procedure. This line is also used to provide you with sedatives to aid in your relaxation. Moreover, this is the time to have those great questions you have compiled ready to ask, as a radiologist team member (often the physician) will answer those questions in-depth.
Outpatients – If you undergo an angioplasty as an outpatient, protocol directs you remain in the hospital for four to six hours following the procedure’s competition to ensure you don’t suffer any complications.
Inpatients – Conversely, if you are already admitted in the hospital or have been scheduled to be admitted following your procedure, you will be required to return to your hospital room while the nursing staff observes your condition. Subsequently, once the staff determines that you are all right, they will discharge you from the hospital.
Driving arrangements – You are not permitted to drive right after an angioplasty and should arrange for a family member or friend to provide you with a ride home from the hospital.
I’m Home, Now What?
Upon returning home from your successful angioplasty procedure, be sure to:
- Not overexert yourself for 24 hours.
- Not operate or drive heavy machinery for 24 hours.
- Not smoke for at least 24 hours.
- Not take a hot bath or shower for 24 hours.
- Not attempt any intensive workout training for at least two days.
What you should do upon coming home from an angioplasty is consume plenty of fluids and resume your normal diet.
Furthermore, once home, you should call your doctor immediately if you incur any bleeding (at the site where the catheter was inserted), numbness (in your arm or leg), or pain (in the area where the balloon was inflated). Your physician will then advise if these occurrences warrant a return to the hospital.
By taking heed of these details, you stand to go through your angioplasty procedure safely and with reduced anxiety. You can take comfort in the fact that this procedure rarely results in any serious complications, and that the physicians performing angioplasties are highly trained and usually very experienced. In most cases, you will return home with a healthier heart and a peace of mind.