Coronary angioplasty
and stents

Learn about the surgical procedure, costs and recovery for coronary angioplasty and stents.

What is coronary angioplasty?1

Coronary angioplasty is a procedure used to open up clogged heart arteries. It is most commonly used to restore blood flow after a heart attack, or to relieve the symptoms of angina (which is chest pain or discomfort).2

The procedure is usually done in hospital. It involves passing a thin tube into an artery, and then inflating a small balloon or a wire mesh tube (a stent) inside the artery to keep it open.

In the medical world, this procedure is sometimes called: percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty.

What is a stent?1

A stent is a wire mesh tube that can be inserted into an artery to help keep it open.

A stent can be inserted during a coronary angioplasty procedure, and it stays in the artery after the procedure is complete.

A stent is not always required to keep the artery open. Sometimes it's enough to simply inflate the balloon to stretch the artery, and then remove the tube.

Man researching signs that he needs coronary angioplasty

Signs you might need coronary angioplasty

Here are some signs that you may need coronary angioplasty:

  • You have coronary heart disease
  • You have a blockage in a coronary artery
  • You have chest pain that is caused by narrowed or blocked arteries

This is a heart procedure, which can be connected to serious heart health issues like blocked coronary arteries and heart attacks.

If you experience sudden chest pain, go to your nearest emergency department or call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.

How does coronary angioplasty work?1

  1. You will be asked not to drink or eat for some hours beforehand.3 You will usually be sedated to help you relax. You'll then be given a local anaesthetic injection near an artery, usually in the groin.
  2. The process starts with an angiogram, which is an x-ray of your veins. The artery is injected with a special dye so it shows up in the x-ray. This x-ray is used to find the blockage in the artery.
  3. Then, the angioplasty begins. A thin tube with a balloon on the end is inserted into the artery. The tube is passed through the artery until it reaches the narrow point.
  4. The balloon is inflated to stretch the artery, then the tube and balloon are removed.
Cardiologist performing a coronary angioplasty surgery
Couple enjoying life after recovering from a coronary angioplasty procedure

Coronary angioplasty recovery1

You will need to lie flat for 1 to 4 hours and probably stay in hospital overnight.

You may need to stay in hospital longer if the angioplasty was done as an emergency procedure.

Getting coronary angioplasty at a public vs private hospital

It’s important to understand how getting your procedure in a public or private hospital differs.

The comparisons below are for planned procedures only, and exclude emergency surgery performed in conjunction with an emergency department admission.

Public system (Without health insurance)
Private system (With health insurance)

Will I avoid public hospital waiting lists?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my hospital?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my doctor or surgeon?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I have out-of-pocket costs?

  • No.
  • Yes.

What is the cost of coronary angioplasty?

In a public hospital

In a public hospital, coronary angioplasty is covered by Medicare for eligible residents.

Once you are discharged from hospital, you may still need to pay out-of-pocket for things like medicines and physiotherapy.

In a private hospital, using health insurance

In a private hospital, private health insurance can cover some costs of coronary angioplasty.

You may have an out-of-pocket cost if you use private hospital cover when you get treatment. You can minimise some of these costs by choosing a hospital and specialist that have agreements with your health insurer.

If you have an excess on your cover, you will have to pay for that out of pocket.

What is hospital excess?

What is an out-of-pocket cost?

How to find health cover for coronary angioplasty

Minimise your costs

Ask your GP for an open referral

Your GP is the one who’ll most likely refer you to a specialist – but they may not recommend the specialist you’d want to perform your surgery. Asking for an open referral can let you:

  • Choose your own specialist.
  • Find a specialist with good availability who can perform treatment at the hospital you prefer.
  • Find a specialist that you trust to perform your surgery.
  • Find a specialist with minimum out-of-pocket expenses for you.

Find a cardiologist with minimum out-of-pocket costs

To find cardiologists who work with HBF, just search for ‘cardiologist’ in our find a provider tool.

  • Look for the “Full Cover” tick mark or “Access Gap Cover” tick mark.
  • These specialists will help minimise your out-of-pocket cost.

Find a cardiologist

If you’ve already started working with a specialist

If you’ve already got a specialist, ask them these questions:

  • Do you have a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF?
    If they don’t, you may need to consider if their fees work with your budget.
  • What hospital(s) do you operate in?
    You can then check if the hospital has a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF.

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