Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is the name for procedures to open a blocked or narrow blood vessel that gives oxygen to the heart (coronary artery). Opening the artery helps to restore blood flow to the heart. This can relieve angina symptoms such as chest pain or pressure. PCI also may help prevent a heart attack. PCI procedures include coronary angioplasty and coronary stent placement.
Angioplasty can open a narrowed or blocked coronary artery. It can be done during or after a heart attack. It restores blood flow to your heart. This can help prevent heart problems. It may also be called balloon angioplasty.
Before an angioplasty, a doctor does a test, called a coronary angiogram. This finds narrowed or blocked arteries. The doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into an artery in your upper leg (groin) or arm. The doctor moves the catheter through that artery to the arteries on the outside of the heart. He or she then puts a dye into the catheter. This makes your heart's arteries show up on a screen so the doctor can see any arteries that are blocked or narrowed.
If you have a blocked or narrow artery, the doctor may do an angioplasty or stent placement. The doctor uses a catheter with a tiny balloon at the tip. He or she puts it into the blocked or narrow area and inflates it. The balloon presses the fatty buildup (plaque) against the walls of the artery. This creates more room for blood to flow. In most cases, the doctor then puts a stent in the artery. A stent is a small, wire-mesh tube that presses against the walls of the artery. The stent is left in the artery to keep the artery open and to help blood flow.
The procedure may take 30 to 90 minutes. But you need time to get ready for it and time to recover. It can take several hours total. You will likely stay 1 night in the hospital.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.
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Current as of: September 21, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & A. Evan Eyler, MD, MPH - Family Medicine, Psychiatry
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