Centers of Excellence

Heart & Vascular Center

Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting

Coronary angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that opens blocked coronary arteries. It is used to relieve symptoms of coronary heart disease, a disease in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. Over time, this buildup leads to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart, resulting in angina (chest pain) and even heart attack. Angioplasty and stenting may be performed during a heart attack to quickly open a blocked artery to reduce heart damage. Coronary angioplasty and stenting may help patients avoid coronary artery bypass surgery, a more invasive surgical procedure.

Cardiac surgeons, vascular and endovascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Heart & Vascular Center offer the full range of techniques for coronary heart disease—from medical treatment to complex conventional surgery to minimally invasive options such as coronary angioplasty and stenting. Our interventional cardiologists perform over 4,000 procedures each year in the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, including angioplasty and stenting procedures. This experience and their collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of cardiovascular specialists enables our specialists to handle the most complicated cases, with a range of treatment options that improve the lives of cardiac patients throughout the world.

With 47,000 outpatient visits each year, the Heart & Vascular Center is one of the largest in the United States, treating over 7,000 inpatients and performing more than 8,000 procedures annually at our state-of-the-art Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.

Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting Topics

How Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting are Performed

Balloon Angioplasty

During a coronary artery angioplasty, a balloon attached to a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in the wrist or groin and guided to the blocked or narrowed area. The tiny balloon is inflated to widen the artery and restore blood flow.

The use of fluoroscopy (a special type of X-ray “movie”) helps your doctor find the coronary artery blockage as contrast dye moves through the arteries. In certain cases, a procedure called atherectomy (removal of plaque or calcium) may be performed at the site of the narrowed artery.


Coronary stents—permanent mesh coils that keep the artery open—are used in most angioplasty procedures. Most stents are drug-eluting stents that are coated with medication to try and prevent scar tissue from forming.

Learn more about angioplasty and stent placement for the heart.

Learn more about cardiac catheterization.

Watch this video of a cardiac catheterization.

Why Have Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting?

Coronary angioplasty and stenting are used to open blocked or narrowed coronary arteries caused by coronary heart disease.

Symptoms of coronary heart disease vary from person to person but may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest pressure or discomfort
  • Jaw pain
  • Back pain
  • Arm pain
  • Fatigue
  • Palpitations
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea or vomiting
What You Should Expect

The Heart & Vascular Center is located in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, across the street from BWH’s main 75 Francis Street entrance. The Heart & Vascular Center brings together the full range of services in one location, fostering seamless and coordinated care for all cardiovascular patients.

Prior to your procedure, you may be scheduled for a visit to the Watkins Clinic in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center for preoperative information and tests.

The day of your procedure, your care will be provided by cardiac specialists, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in coronary artery disease. The Heart & Vascular Center is home to one of the most advanced hybrid operating rooms in the country. After your procedure, you will recover in a dedicated recovery unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced nursing staff. Most patients after elective outpatient coronary stenting procedures will be discharged the same day.

During your procedure, family and friends can wait in the Shapiro Family Center where staff members will provide surgery updates.

Multidisciplinary Care

Patients benefit from the teamwork of medical cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, vascular and endovascular surgeons, cardiovascular imaging experts and radiologists, and anesthesiologists, all experts in cardiovascular disease. They work alongside nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, dietitians and social workers to achieve outstanding outcomes for our patients.


Learn more about coronary angioplasty and stenting in our health library.

Read questions and answers about coronary angioplasty and stenting.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

Learn about the Watkins Clinic in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

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