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Percutaneous Coronary Intervention

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI, formerly known as angioplasty with stent) is a non-surgical procedure that uses a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) to place a small structure called a stent to open up blood vessels in the heart that have been narrowed or blocked by plaque buildup, a condition known as atherosclerosis.

Types of percutaneous interventions include:

  • Balloon angioplasty: Some catheters hold tiny, folded balloons on their tips. Once the tip reaches the blockage, the balloon is inflated, opening the artery. The balloon is then deflated and removed. The doctor will often place a stent, a tiny mesh tube, in the area of the artery that the balloon opened to keep it open.

  • Angioplasty with stent: In this procedure, a stent is positioned inside a narrowed or blocked artery. It is then opened and left behind to keep the artery open. Most stents are drug-eluting, meaning they are coated with a polymer that releases special drugs that decrease scar tissue buildup. This keeps the artery open and reduces the need for further treatment.

  • Laser angioplasty: Some catheters hold a laser, allowing doctors to vaporize arterial blockages.

  • Rotational atherectomy: This special catheter-based tool drills out challenging calcium deposits in the arteries.

Why choose Presbyterian for your percutaneous coronary intervention?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has a skilled vascular care team who can provide a wide range of services from diagnosis to treatment. Their surgeons are trained in many different techniques and procedures, many of which can provide you with a shorter recovery period and less hospital time.

Who is eligible for a percutaneous coronary intervention?

A PCI procedure is a good idea for people who have blocked or narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can be discovered through an exercise stress test, echocardiogram, MRI, CT Scan, CTA, and other kinds of tests.

What conditions can be treated with a percutaneous coronary intervention?

Conditions that are appropriate for PCI treatment include:

  • Dyspnea.

  • Heart attack.

  • Chest pain (Angina).

  • Coronary artery disease.

  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).

In patients with stable chest pain, medication is usually the first treatment given. PCI is usually needed when you have:

  • Worsening of symptoms.

  • Medications have not been effective.

How do I prepare for a percutaneous coronary intervention?

Your doctor will explain the risks and benefits of the procedure. Before the procedure starts, tell your doctor if you: 

What should I expect during my percutaneous intervention?

  • Before your procedure, you may receive a sedative to help you relax.

  • Hair in the groin area is clipped.

  • An intravenous (IV) line is inserted to give you medications.

  • Electrodes will be placed on your body to monitor your heart. A small device called a pulse oximeter might be clipped on a finger or ear to track the oxygen level in your blood.

  • You will lie on your back on a procedure table.

  • A local anesthetic will be injected into the skin at the site where the catheter will be inserted.

  • Once it has taken effect, the catheter will be inserted into the blood vessels. You may feel a brief sting as the needle is inserted and some pressure as the catheter is moved.

  • Contrast dye will be released so the area where the blood vessel is narrowed can be found by the catheter. You may feel a brief rush of warmth.

  • When the balloon on the tip of the catheter is in place, it is inflated. It compresses the plaque on the sides of the vessel and expands the stent. Once the plaque is compressed, and the stent is in place, the balloon is deflated and withdrawn. The stent stays in the artery, holding it open so blood can flow freely.

  • When finished, the catheter will be withdrawn from your body and pressure put on the insertion site to stop the bleeding.

  • You will need to remain to lie flat during this time. You will go to a recovery room for two to six hours, depending upon your specific condition.

  • Most people spend the night in the hospital after a PCI.

How do I care for myself after my percutaneous coronary intervention?

When you return home, keep an eye on the insertion site. Contact your doctor if you experience:

  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Redness.
  • Swelling.
  • Increased pain.
  • Bleeding or other draining from the insertion site.