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Angioplasty is a medical procedure intended to improve blood flow in arteries which have been narrowed by the buildup of a fatty substance known as plaque. While angioplasty is not considered a major surgery, it does require a short recuperation stage. During angioplasty recovery, you should expect an initial period of extremely limited movement, often under doctor supervision. Once at home, you will likely need to take anti-clotting medications, drink plenty of fluids, and minimize physical activity for several days. You should also be prepared to watch for signs of complications, such as infection, blood clots, and heart attack.
During the procedure, a tube known as a catheter is inserted at the groin and then threaded up toward the blocked artery. The operating physician then injects dye into the bloodstream, allowing him to identify the exact site of the blockage using digital imaging. Once the blockage has been identified, the physician uses the catheter to widen the arterial passageway, usually by inflating a balloon to compress the plaque or by using a metal coil known as a stent to prop open the arterial walls.
Usually, angioplasty recovery begins with an overnight hospital stay during which recuperation is monitored by medical staff. The catheter is removed from the groin, and you generally must then remain in bed for several hours to discourage bleeding. Toward the end of this observation period, you may be encouraged to slowly sit, stand, and walk.
Once released from the hospital, you must continue to allow for angioplasty recovery. In many cases, you will be required to take an anti-clotting medication to diminish the risk of blood clots, particularly if you have had a stent installed. You should minimize all physical activity for approximately one week. In order to dilute and eliminate the dye used during the procedure, you should drink plenty of fluids. Additionally, you should discourage further blockages by eating a diet low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat, and undertaking a daily regimen of blood-thinning medication such as aspirin if directed to do so by your physician.
Vigilance also constitutes an important part of angioplasty recovery. Prior to the procedure, you should talk to your physician about the signs of blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and infection. If you detect any of these signs during the recovery process — chest pain, for instance, or fever and swelling — you should immediately consult your physician or proceed to an emergency medical treatment facility for evaluation.