Coronary Angioplasty /PCI

What is Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) / Coronary Angioplasty

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also known as coronary angioplasty, is a nonsurgical procedure that improves blood flow to your heart. PCI requires cardiac catheterization, which is the insertion of a catheter tube and injection of contrast dye, usually iodine-based, into your coronary arteries. Doctors use PCI to open coronary arteries that are narrowed or blocked by the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque. PCI may be used to relieve symptoms of coronary heart disease or to reduce heart damage during or after a heart attack.

What should I expect during the procedure?

The procedure begins with the cardiologist injecting local anesthesia into the groin area and putting a needle into the femoral artery, the blood vessel that runs down the leg. A guide wire is placed through the needle and the needle is removed. An introducer is then placed over the guide wire, after which the wire is removed. A different sized guide wire is put in its place.

Next, a long narrow tube called a diagnostic catheter is advanced through the introducer over the guide wire, into the blood vessel. This catheter is then guided to the aorta and the guide wire is removed. Once the catheter is placed in the opening of one the coronary arteries, the doctor injects dye and takes an x-ray.

If a treatable blockage is noted, the first catheter is exchanged for a guiding catheter. Once the guiding catheter is in place, a guide wire is advanced across the blockage, then a balloon catheter is advanced to the blockage site. The balloon is inflated for a few seconds to compress the blockage against the artery wall. Then the balloon is deflated.

The doctor may repeat this a few times, each time pumping up the balloon a little more to widen the passage for the blood to flow through. This treatment may be repeated at each blocked site in the coronary arteries. A device called a stent may be placed within the coronary artery to keep the vessel open. Once the compression has been performed, contrast media is injected and an x-ray is taken to check for any change in the arteries. Following this, the catheter is removed and the procedure is completed.

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