Is an angioplasty painful?

If you’ve arrived here, it’s probably because you’re wondering whether getting your arteries unclogged is going to feel like a thousand tiny ninja stars piercing through your chest. Well, fret not my friend, for we are here to explore this question in depth and hopefully leave you feeling more relieved than that time you realized your boss was actually laughing with you.

Let’s start with the basics.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details of what happens during an angioplasty, let’s first make sure we’re all on the same page regarding its definition. In layman’s terms: Angioplasty is a medical procedure used to open up narrowed or blocked blood vessels by inserting a small balloon catheter (that looks nothing like a balloon at all) that inflates and deflates several times until the narrowing has been widened enough to allow improved blood flow. The process essentially sounds like trying to inflate one of those beady stress balls inside your body but with better results hopefully.

Now, if that still doesn’t make much sense then try this image on for size – imagine winding up string around a tree trunk so many times that it eventually tightens and becomes restricted in size; now imagine using something long and thin-ish to gently prod at it until some slack appears again – voila! There’s (hopefully) space there again!

Sounds great so far right?

The idea of having unrestricted blood flow through arteries once again does sound quite lovely… BUT, hold onto your britches folks cause everything comes with pros AND cons (insert dramatic music)


Let’s have ourselves some good news before reckoning with ugly truths shall we?- Here are some benefits / reasons why angioplasties just might be worth experiencing:
– Less invasive as compared to surgery
– Low risk
– Short recovery period
– Can be done as an outpatient procedure (does this mean you get to take home the balloon?)


Now for the less-than-stellar bits:
– Pain and / or discomfort could occur during or post-operation
– In rare cases, serious complications can happen such as bleeding and/or heart attack.

Do I have your attention now? Yeah, we thought so. But don’t let that scare you off just yet… like with most medical procedures, it’s important to consider all aspects before making a final decision.

Is an angioplasty painful?

Ah yes, back to our main question – Let’s start by acknowledging two things about pain:

1) Pain is different for everyone. One person may describe the sensation of getting an IV inserted into their arm as “aching” while another might say “sharp”. So what one feels during angioplasties generally ranges on a spectrum from ‘no big deal’ to “OWWWWIIIEESSSS!!!!”
2) There are many factors that affect how much pain you experience; your age (older folks seem more sensitive), any trauma-related anxieties/mayhem in your noggin’, overall fitness levels etc.

That being said there are certain expected sensations and side-effects from having undergone the procedure:

During the operation

During angioplasty surgery itself, local anesthesia will usually numb up areas around where catheterization takes place ie upper thigh area which means it shouldn’t feel like scorching lava flowing through your veins when they finally stick something inside you. This already removes A LOT of stressors people naturally associate with invasive interventions.

However, just because everything has been numbed-up does not mean 100% radical relief from every feeling known to man-kind! Some common reports include feeling pressure / tugging type sensations including cramp like feelings too which makes sense considering they’re nudging stuff around within ones body so expect the occasional ‘OW’.


Post-procedure “what does this feel like?” sensations vary more widely but here are some things you may experience:

  • Inflammation: After getting your arteries pummeled around a little bit, it’s understandable that they might get grumpy and swollen temporarily. This can cause some pain especially at site of access as well as perhaps contributing to offshoots such as muscular or pressure based symptoms.

  • Soreness: Similar to inflammation, soreness at accessing site is quite common – again a product of having just had an incision made into soft tissue. Gentle stretches/exercises (as prescribed by medical staff) help over time.

  • Additionally, after leaving hospital one may also have to take meds which come with their own side-effects such as constipation and pins-&-needles!

So there we have it people! Yes there can be pain / discomfort involved in angioplasties BUT most patients report that it’s ultimately on the milder side. While everyones’ recovery journey will be unique; If your health care provider ends up suggesting angioplasty for the betterment of your heart – know what you’re getting yourself into but don’t be alarmed either. It’s not THE worst thing ever (insert thumbs-up emoji).