Peripheral Angioplasty - Improving Blood Flow to Your Lower Body

Peripheral Angioplasty is a procedure that helps open blockages in peripheral arteries. These vessels carry blood to your lower body and legs. Angioplasty may allow your blood flow better. This can help prevent severe leg pain and cramping.

Symptoms of a Blockage

The symptoms of a blocked or narrowed artery in your lower body include the following: Leg pain while walking Unusually tired or cramped leg muscles after physical activity A sore or cut on the feet, ankles, or toes that won't heal.

What Causes a Blockage? 

A blockage forms when fatty deposits called plaque build up on artery walls. The risk factors below can increase your chances of having a blockage:

  • Smoking 
  • Diabetes 
  • Being overweight 
  • Not exercising 
  • High cholesterol 
  • A family history of vascular (blood vessel) problems

Risks and Complications 

Angioplasty is safe. But it does have some risks and possible complications. These include:

  • Allergic reaction or kidney problems from the contrast "dye"
  • Artery tears
  • Plaque breaks apart and blocks other areas of an artery
  • Bleeding or bruising at the insertion site
  • Artery remains blocked

Your Angioplasty 

You may get medicine through an intravenous (IV) line to relax you. You'll also have an injection to numb the insertion site. A tiny skin incision is made in your groin. This is the insertion site. You doctor inserts a catheter (thin tube) into the site and slides it through an artery while viewing a video monitor. A contrast "dye" is injected into the catheter. You may feel warmth or pressure in your legs and back. X-ray images are taken (angiography). A tiny balloon is pushed through the catheter to the blockage. Your doctor inflates and deflates the balloon a few times to compress the plaque. You may fee pressure. The balloon and catheter are then removed. Pressure is applied to the insertion site by hand or with a special belt.

If a Stent is Needed?

A stent is a small metal or mesh tube. It is sometimes used to help keep your artery open. If you need a stent, your doctor will place it in your artery during angioplasty. He or she fits the stent over a balloon. The balloon and stent then slide through the catheter to the area where the blockage is. Your doctor inflates the balloon. This presses the stent against the artery wall. The balloon is removed and the stent stays in place.

Afterward, you'll be taken to a recovery area. A doctor or nurse will keep applying pressure to the site for about 15 minutes. You will need to keep your leg still and straight for a few hours. You will either go home later that day or spend the night in the facility.

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