If you have recently undergone angioplasty or know you need to get one, you may be wondering if you can travel after angioplasty. An angioplasty is a minimally invasive treatment for peripheral artery disease, or PAD. This condition occurs when the arteries leading to the lower extremities are narrowed due to plaque buildup.
At USA Vascular Centers, our doctors specialize in performing angioplasties and other non-surgical PAD treatments. Your care team will guide you through your procedure and give you personalized tips for travel, but this guide can give you an idea of what to expect. Schedule a consultation with one of our vascular specialists for more information about whether an angioplasty may be right for you.
Angioplasty Stent Procedure
When it comes to treating blockages in the peripheral arteries, there are two main types of angioplasty: balloon and stent. Despite having two separate names, the stent placement is an extension of balloon angioplasty rather than a different procedure.
In an angioplasty, a vascular doctor guides a balloon-tipped catheter through a small incision in the arm, leg, or groin and into the affected artery. For a balloon angioplasty, the balloon is inflated when it reaches a clogged area, compressing the plaque and widening the artery. This allows blood to flow more freely through the previously narrowed area. A stent angioplasty involves the added step of placing a mesh stent inside the blocked area to keep it propped open.
Because it is a minimally invasive procedure, angioplasty typically takes our doctors 30 to 45 minutes to perform. The treatment does not require stitches or general anesthesia, and after a few hours of observation patients can recover in the comfort of their homes.
In addition, the nature of this treatment is much less invasive than a bypass surgery, for example. This means that patients can typically travel after angioplasty sooner rather than later.
All of our angioplasties are done in one of our state-of-the-art outpatient centers, which are accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). Our accredited status means that we meet and exceed stringent patient safety standards. We also comply with all local, state, and federal laws, qualifying us for Medicare and Medicaid certification.
Recovery and Activity Level Guide
Recovery after an angioplasty for peripheral artery disease generally takes about a week. If you’ve had a heart attack and an emergency angioplasty, you’ll have been treated in an emergency setting at a hospital, meaning care instructions will be different. This recovery and activity level guide is only for patients recovering from peripheral artery disease treatment without an accompanying heart attack.
When it comes to travel after angioplasty, the first trip to consider is your drive home from our outpatient center. You’ll want to arrange for someone to pick you up and drive you home after the procedure. It’s also wise to plan your treatment at least a week out from any major trips and avoid immediate air travel after angioplasty.
The first three to five days of recovery:
Take it easy and rest. When you get up to walk around, do so slowly, sticking to flat, easy surfaces. To reduce the chance of developing a blood clot, you will want to move about the house three to four times a day. Avoid going up and down stairs more than twice per day, however, and let someone else drive if you decide to go anywhere. Or, wait until at least two days have passed before driving.
During your initial recovery period, leave the yard work or intensive housework to someone else. You should also take a break from playing any sports or doing manual labor. Every day, clean and care for your incision site according to your doctor’s directions. Make sure to take any prescribed medications as instructed by your doctor.
One week following your procedure:
After a week, you should be able to slowly resume a moderate activity level over the next three to four weeks. It’s normal to feel tired in the weeks after your angioplasty, but you should avoid exerting yourself to the point of shortness of breath, fatigue, or chest pain. Our continuing care tips can help you stay healthy and ready for travel after angioplasty.
How Soon Can I Fly After Angioplasty?
Your doctor will tell you when you can safely travel after angioplasty, but in general, you can resume air travel about one week after a stent or balloon angioplasty. The main thing to remember is that sitting in one position for too long can put you at risk of blood clots if you have PAD. During your flight, make sure to get up and walk the aisle every hour as long as the seatbelt sign is turned off.
You may also consider asking your doctor about using compression socks on board, as they can help keep blood flowing during long flights. It’s also critically important to take your medication exactly as your doctor prescribed it and bring it with you on the flight. Review our guide to air travel with PAD for additional tips on flying after angioplasty.
What About Driving and Car Travel?
It’s best to wait at least two days before driving after angioplasty. While we tend not to use general anesthesia for angioplasty and stent placement at USA Vascular Centers, we encourage you to wait two days to allow the effects of your light sedation and local anesthesia to fully wear off before driving.
For car travel after angioplasty as a passenger, short rides are fine immediately after surgery, but longer drives should wait for three to five days to give your body time to rest and heal. When you do go on a car trip after an angioplasty or stent placement, be sure to stop frequently and walk around to keep the blood flowing in your legs.
Schedule a Consultation with USA Vascular Centers
Are you planning a big family vacation but also need PAD treatment? With our doctors at USA Vascular Centers, you can plan the treatment you need and get back to your exciting plans as soon as possible. Your personal care team at USA Vascular Centers will work closely with you to help alleviate your PAD symptoms and safely travel after angioplasty.