Cardiovascular Institute > Cardiology Tests & Procedures > Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA)

What Other Terms are Used to Describe Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty?

  • Balloon Angioplasty
  • Angioplasty
  • PTCA

Why is an Angioplasty Done?

  • A PTCA is a procedure that opens narrowed arteries to increase blood flow.
  • A PTCA may be done instead of coronary artery bypass surgery depending upon the type and location of the narrowing, the extent of the disease and the risk involved.
  • The rate of restenosis (renarrowing) is 25-80 % within the first six months.

How is A Balloon Angioplasty Done?

  • This procedure is nonsurgical and is performed under X-ray guidance in the Cardiac catheterization lab.
  • A PTCA may be done immediately following a cardiac catherization or sometime later.
  • The patient is given a mild sedative to help him relax but remains awake during the procedure to allow him to answer questions regarding his comfort level, any chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • A small area of the groin or arm is shaved and cleaned where the catheter is inserted.
  • Medication is used to anesthetize (numb) the area so a small incision can be made where the catheter will be inserted.
  • A catheter with a deflated balloon on the tip is inserted through the artery in the groin or arm. X-ray is used to guide the catheter up into the heart.
  • The catheter is threaded up into the narrowed artery of the heart. The balloon is then inflated and deflated several times to squeeze the plaque deposits against the wall of the artery.
  • The test takes 1-2 hours.

What Symptoms May be Experienced During the Procedure?

  • A slight burning or stinging from the medicine used to numb the catheter insertion site. Slight discomfort or pressure as the catheter is being inserted.
  • Slight nausea and or, extra heartbeats.
  • Chest pain may occur as the balloon catheter is being inflated, but it is temporary.

What Happens After the Procedure is Completed?

  • After X-rays are taken, the balloon and catheter are removed, but the sheath (IV) will remain in place.
  • A sheath (IV) is usually left in place in the leg overnight until the blood thinning medications are discontinued and your clotting time returns to normal.
  • A bandaid or pressure dressing will be placed over the area where the catheter was inserted.
  • You will be admitted to a special cardiac care unit (POU or ICCU) to monitored closely.
  • When the sheath is removed from the groin firm pressure is applied to the sheath insertion site for 15-30 minutes until the bleeding stops.
  • If an artery in the arm is used, pressure will be applied over sheath insertion site for 15-30 minutes also.
  • The insertion site will be checked frequently for signs of bleeding.
  • Blood pressure and the pulse in the leg (or arm) used will be checked frequently.
  • A knot may occur under the skin where the catheter was inserted. This is only temporary.
  • Bruising may occur in the area of the leg/groin where the catheter was inserted and may spread down the leg and is only temporary.
  • Most patients are discharged 8 hours after the sheath is removed with minimal activity restrictions.

What Precautions Should Be Observed Following the Procedure?

  • Avoid bending the leg at the hip (groin area) for 6-8 hours after the catheter is removed. Hold the bandaid firmly if you need to cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid bending or using the arm for several hours if it was used for the insertion of the catheter.

What Signs and Symptoms Should Be Reported Immediately?

  • Discomfort or sudden pain at the insertion site.
  • A warm, moist and sticky feeling, or bleeding.
  • Any discomfort in chest, neck, jaw, arms or upper back, shortness of breath, weakness or dizziness.

What Follow Up Can Be Expected?

  • The patient will continue to have routine follow-up visits with the cardiologist after this procedure.

What Preparation is Needed?

  • Nothing to eat or drink after midnight.
  • It is important for the patient to ask his doctor:
    • How to adjust insulin and food intake prior to the test if he is a diabetic
    • If he should take his regular medications the morning of the test
    • If taking blood thinners (ie. Coumadin), should they be withheld and, if so, how long prior to the procedure
  • Leave all valuables at home.
  • Plan to be admitted to the hospital overnight.
  • Make arrangements to be driven home the following day.


  • Pre-register 1-3 days prior to the day the test is scheduled. This will save considerable time on the day of test. Please call 310-517-4754 to pre-register.
  • Plan to arrive 2 hours before the scheduled time of the test.
  • Enter the hospital through the main lobby from the visitor parking lot on the east side of the hospital.
  • Check in at the information desk in the main lobby.
  • The patient will be escorted to the Short Stay Department.