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Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure used to open a coronary (heart) artery that is completely or mostly clogged with deposits of fat and cholesterol called plaque.

It is the primary treatment for patients who are experiencing a heart attack due to a clogged artery, and is an alternative to coronary bypass surgery for many patients, including people with serious health problems that make open heart surgery too risky.

The procedure involves threading a very thin tube called a catheter — inserted through a tiny needle puncture in the wrist, arm or groin — up through the blood vessels to reach the blockage in the artery in the heart. A balloon at the tip of the catheter is then inflated to flatten the plaque up against the artery wall. This opens up the artery and restores blood flow to the heart muscle.

When the balloon is removed, a stent (a tiny wire mesh tube) is typically placed in the artery to keep it open.

Do I need angioplasty?

Angioplasty is most commonly used for the following:

  • To limit damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack
  • To relieve chronic chest pain (angina) that occurs when the heart doesn't get enough blood due to narrowed arteries

There are many benefits of angioplasty compared to coronary bypass surgery:

  • It doesn't require open heart surgery
  • You are not given general anesthesia (to make you sleep) during the procedure
  • You leave the hospital sooner and recover more quickly

Sometimes surgery is a better option than angioplasty. Your cardiologist will do a complete evaluation to determine which procedure will work best for you. If you do need surgery, you will be referred to a cardiovascular surgeon at Rush.

Why choose Rush for angioplasty?

  • Rapid heart attack treatment. Rush's median "door-to-balloon" time — the time between when a person having a heart attack enters the hospital and receives the recommended emergency treatment of an angioplasty — is 60 minutes. This is significantly shorter than the standard U.S. goal of 90 minutes.
  • Accreditation. Rush has received Mission: Lifeline STEMI Accreditation, provided through a partnership between the American Heart Association and the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. To earn this accreditation, hospitals must meet standards for prompt, appropriate heart attack treatment, including lifesaving procedures such as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) on a 24/7 basis. Rush is one of only two hospitals in Chicago to receive this accreditation.
  • State-of-the-art procedure rooms. Rush is the only center in Chicago and one of only a few in the U.S. with a bi-plane hybrid cardiac suite — a combination operating room and cardiac catheterization lab. The suite allows interventional cardiologists and heart surgeons to work together to solve complex heart problems. It also enables doctors to switch from an interventional procedure to open surgery, if necessary, without having to move the patient to another room.
  • Quality heart attack care. Rush is one of only 78 hospitals nationwide to receive the American College of Cardiology's NCDR ACTION Registry–GWTG Gold Performance Achievement Award for 2015. The award recognizes Rush's commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients. It also signifies that Rush has reached an aggressive goal of treating these patients to standard levels of care as outlined by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association clinical guidelines and recommendations