The aim of any heart attack treatment is to clear the blockage in the artery as quickly as possible. Primary angioplasty is one way of doing this. 

The primary angioplasty procedure

  1. A catheter (thin, hollow tube) is inserted through a small cut in your groin or wrist.

  2. The catheter is guided through the aorta (the main artery of the body) into the blocked artery in the heart.

  3. At the tip of the catheter is a small balloon. This is inflated, clearing the blockage in the artery. Around the balloon is a small metal tube, which can expand, called a stent.

  4. After 10 to 20 seconds, the balloon is deflated and taken out. The stent stays in place and holds the artery open. This means that blood can flow down through the artery again.

Heart attack centre at Harefield Hosptial 

Studies have shown that the speed of treatment to unblock arteries is crucial to a patient's chances of survival. Harefield Hospital has one of the fastest treatment times in the country at only 27 minutes, compared to the national average of 42.  

What is the difference between a coronary angioplasty and a primary angioplasty?

When an angioplasty is carried out as a planned treatment, it is called a coronary angioplasty. When it is carried out as an emergency after a heart attack, it is a primary angioplasty.

A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes completely blocked and blood cannot reach a certain part of the heart muscle.

The term 'heart problems' incorporate a number of specific conditions, such as coronary artery disease, angina and heart attacks. 

Useful information

This leaflet gives you general information to support your recovery after your primary angioplasty:

After your primary angioplasty - Harefield Hospital - October 2017 (PDF, 446KB)