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Venous Angioplasty and Stenting

Large veins that are narrowed or blocked can cause severe swelling and pain. Venous angioplasty is a procedure done to treat these blockages. Sometimes a metal mesh tube (stent) may then be placed into the vein to hold it open. The procedure is done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Cross section of vein with balloon inside. Angioplasty widens passage through vein. Cross section of vein with stent inside. Stent holds vein open so blood can flow freely.

Before the procedure

Follow any instructions you are given on how to get ready. This includes:

  • Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

  • Tell your radiologist what medicines, herbs, or supplements you take. Also tell the radiologist if you are or may be pregnant, or if you are allergic to X-ray dye (contrast medium) or other medicines.

  • Have a friend or relative available to drive you home. 

During the procedure

  • You'll change into a hospital gown and lie on an X-ray table. An IV (intravenous) line is started. This is to give you fluids and medicines. You may be given medicine to help you relax. Medicine will be put on the skin at the insertion site to numb it.

  • A very small cut (incision) is made over the insertion site. Then a needle with a thin guide wire is put through the skin into the vein. A thin, flexible tube (catheter) is put over the guide wire into the blood vessel.

  • Contrast medium is injected into the blood vessel. This helps the veins show clearly on X-ray images. The radiologist uses these images as a guide. He or she moves the catheter to the narrowed or blocked part of the vein.

  • When the catheter reaches the narrowed or blocked area, the radiologist inflates a special balloon attached to the catheter (angioplasty). This widens the passage through the vein.

  • A stent may be put in place to hold the vein open. To do this, a catheter with a stent attached is threaded over the guide wire. The stent is opened when it reaches the narrowed area. The stent stays in the vein. The catheters and balloons are taken out.

Possible risks and complications

  • Bruising at the catheter insertion site

  • Damage to the vein. This includes worsening of the blockage.

  • Problems because of contrast medium. These include allergic reaction or kidney damage.

  • The vein becomes blocked again (restenosis. This often happens within 6 to 18 months.

After the procedure

  • You may stay in the hospital for a few hours or overnight.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the contrast medium from your system.

  • Care for the insertion site as directed.

Online Medical Reviewer: Larson, Kim APRN, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Pierce-Smith, Daphne, RN, MSN, CCRC
Last Review Date: 12/22/2013
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