Angioplasty vs Angiography: Risks & Benefits

Angioplasty and angiography sounds similar, but their functions are entirely different. In a nutshell, angioplasty treats problems with blood vessels, whereas angiography diagnoses problems with blood vessels.

When would you require either of these procedures? And what are the risks and benefits associated with either? Let’s explore. You can also get in toch with Dr. Robert Azizi — who offers Vein Treatments in Southern California.


Coronary angioplasty procedure is used to treat clogged heart arteries.

A big problem with clogged arteries is the interruption of blood flow. A balloon catheter is fed into a blocked blood vessel to widen it, allowing blood to flow back to the heart again.

This procedure is usually paired with the placement of something called a stent. This is a small tube that’s positioned to keep the artery’s passageway open. These stents can be coated with a slow-release medication to prevent the formation of scar tissue, so the vessel doesn’t close back up again.

Why is Angioplasty Done?

You can have an angioplasty done to treat the build-up of plaque in heart muscles. But it can also be done to treat peripheral arterial disease. 

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Peripheral arterial disease is a condition that usually affects the arteries in the legs. You have PAD if the arteries in your legs (sometimes arms) are narrowed and prevent blood flow. This tends to be because of a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries.

For many, PAD doesn’t cause any symptoms. However, for others, something called claudication occurs. This means they get leg pain when active and relief from this pain when they’re resting. Claudication symptoms include pain, aches, fatigue and weakness in the legs.

Treatment for PAD includes exercising, eating a better diet, giving up smoking, and in some cases, angioplasty.

When is Angioplasty Offered?

Angioplasty can be offered by your doctor if you’re dealing with pain while walking (claudication). However, other treatments may be offered if you don’t have severe symptoms, or any at all.

These treatments can include changing your diet, quitting smoking and managing your weight. Exercise has proven to be a highly effective option for managing PAD symptoms, so an exercise program might be one of the first suggestions.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to help with PAD. These could be cholesterol drugs like statins, to lower cholesterol and reduce plaque buildup in the arteries. They may also prescribe medications to improve blood pressure or blood clots to support blood flow.

If you have any underlying conditions, such as diabetes, that aren’t under control, your doctor will work to treat these too. If these measures don’t work or your claudication is causing issues with walking, surgery becomes an option.

Benefits of Angioplasty:

  • It can reduce pain and discomfort
  • It can increase mobility and make walking easier
  • It can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke
  • It can improve blood flow to the heart
  • It’s less invasive than other surgeries
  • It takes up to an hour to perform
  • It can be done under local anesthesia

What are the Risks of Angioplasty?

Of course, as with any surgical procedure, there are risks.

Remember, risks depend on your circumstances and how good you are at sticking to your doctor’s advice and instructions! While your doctor is the best person to discuss risks with, we’ll give you a look into some of the possible risks now.

Here are some of the risks associated with angioplasty and stenting.

  • If stenting is not used, an artery can collapse
  • Bruising or bleeding at the site of catheter insertion
  • An allergic reaction to the stent
  • A blood clot or scar tissue can form inside the stent
  • Artery rupture or perforation

Although there are risks, it’s worth remembering the effectiveness of angioplasty as a treatment is high.


It’s not possible to see blood vessels using normal x-rays, so a special kind of x-ray called an angiogram is needed for your doctor to see what’s going on with your arteries. They can do this by injecting a special dye into the blood. This dye highlights the blood vessels as it moves through, allowing your doctor to spot any abnormalities and diagnose problems.

Angiography can even be used to guide other medical procedures, such as angioplasty!

Why Would You Need an Angiogram?

A doctor may recommend you have an angiogram if you have circulation problems. Having an angiogram can help to diagnose a range of issues affecting blood vessels. These include:

  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Aneurysm
  • Blood clots
  • Coronary heart disease

Angiograms can be used to identify any blockages and can guide your doctor through surgeries.

What are the Benefits of Angiography?

  • It may remove the need for surgery or allow it to be performed with greater accuracy
  • It can provide a real-time and dynamic image of what’s happening in the body
  • It presents a very detailed and clear picture of the blood vessels
  • Angioplasty can be performed at the same time as angiography
  • It’s a generally fast and minimally invasive procedure

What are the Risks of Angiography?

Angiograms are generally safe. Thankfully, serious complications are rare. However, your doctor will speak to you about any risks before you undergo the test.

Risks can include:

  • Bruising or soreness
  • A collection of blood under the skin (hematoma)
  • Allergic reaction to the dye
  • Damage to blood vessel
  • Infection where the cut was made
  • Damage to kidney
  • Heart attack or stroke (very rare)

These are all possible risks but it doesn’t mean they’re all common. When angiography is performed by an experienced team, it’s usually safe and painless.

How Angioplasty & Angiography Relate To Each Other

If you get one, you may be getting the other! When getting an angioplasty, your doctor may use an angiogram to illuminate your blood vessels.

Both angiography and angioplasty are concerned with blood vessels. One presents a detailed look at your blood vessels and can check for narrowing. The other is used to correct any narrowing, often with a stent.

Get Angioplasty for Peripheral Arterial Disease with Dr. Azizi in Southern California

If you have peripheral arterial disease and it’s interfering with your daily life, see Dr. Azizi at our vein treatment clinic in California. You don’t have to live with pain or discomfort anymore. Dr. Azizi will work with you to improve your quality of life and boost your vein health, so you can feel good again.

We offer Vein Treatments in our Bell Gardens, Buena Park & Korea Town based Centers! Book your appointment today.