Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Angioplasty for Peripheral Arterial Disease of the Legs
Angioplasty (also called percutaneous
transluminal angioplasty, or PTA) is a procedure in which a thin, flexible tube
called a catheter is inserted through an artery and guided to the place where
the artery is narrowed.
When the tube reaches the narrowed
artery, a small balloon at the end of the tube inflates for a short time. The pressure from the inflated balloon presses the fat and calcium
(plaque) against the wall of the artery to improve blood flow.
angioplasty of the aorta (the major abdominal artery) or the iliac arteries
(which branch off from the aorta), a small, expandable tube called a
stent is usually put in place at the same time.
Reclosure (restenosis) of the artery is less likely to occur if a stent is
used. Stents are less commonly used in angioplasty of
smaller leg arteries like the femoral, popliteal, or tibial arteries, because they are subject to trauma
and damage in these locations.
After the procedure, you will rest in
bed for 6 to 8 hours. You may have to stay overnight in the hospital. After
you leave the hospital, you can most likely return to normal activities.
This procedure is commonly used to
open narrowed arteries that supply blood flow to the heart. It may be used on
short sections of narrowed arteries in people who have
peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Angioplasty can restore blood flow and relieve intermittent claudication.footnote 1 Angioplasty can help you walk farther without leg pain than you did before the procedure.footnote 2
How well angioplasty works depends on the
size of the blood vessel, the length of blood vessel affected, and whether the
blood vessel is completely blocked.
In general, angioplasty works best in the following types
Complications related to the catheter include:
Serious complications are
rare. These complications may
There is always a slight risk of damage to cells or tissues
from being exposed to any radiation, including the low levels of X-ray used for
this test. But the risk of damage from the X-rays is usually very low
compared with the potential benefits of the test.
In some cases, bypass
surgery may be the best treatment choice. This treatment choice depends on your
risks with the procedure, the size of the arteries, and the number and length
of the blockages or narrowing in the arteries.
Your doctor may recommend that you try an exercise program and medicine before he or she recommends that you have angioplasty.
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Hirsch AT, et al. (2006). ACC/AHA 2005 practice guidelines for the management of patients with peripheral arterial disease (lower extremity, renal, mesenteric, and abdominal aortic): A collaborative report from the American Association for Vascular Surgery/Society for Vascular Surgery, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, Society for Vascular Medicine and Biology, Society of Interventional Radiology, and the ACC/AHA Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Writing Committee to Develop Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Peripheral Arterial Disease): Endorsed by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Society for Vascular Nursing; TransAtlantic Inter-Society Consensus; and Vascular Disease Foundation. Circulation, 113(11): e463–e654.
Cassar K (2011). Peripheral arterial disease, search date May 2010. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Other Works Consulted
Fuad Jan, M, et al. (2011). Minimally invasive treatment of peripheral vascular disease. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's The Heart, 13th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2355–2385. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Kinlay S, Bhatt DL (2015). Treatment of noncoronary obstructive vascular disease. In DL Mann et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 10th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1347–1364. Philadelphia: Saunders.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, ElectrophysiologyE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerDavid A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
Current as ofAugust 20, 2015
Current as of:
August 20, 2015
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & David A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.