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Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)

What is percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)?

Percutaneous coronary intervention is a non-surgical method used to open narrowed arteries that supply heart muscle with blood (coronary arteries). Percutaneous means "through unbroken skin." Percutaneous coronary intervention is performed by inserting a catheter through the skin in the groin or arm into an artery. At the leading tip of this catheter, several different devices such as a balloon, stent, or cutting device (artherectomy device) can be deployed. The catheter and its devices are threaded through the inside of the artery back into an area of coronary artery narrowing or blockage.

The "I" in percutaneous coronary intervention is for "Intervention," which means that even if the person is actively having a heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI), percutaneous coronary intervention can be used to intervene and stop the attack by opening up the narrow or blocked coronary artery. This allows blood to flow to the heart muscle.

Percutaneous coronary intervention began as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), a term still found in the literature, and now encompasses balloons, stents (metal scaffolding expanded inside the artery lumen), and other modifications to the catheter tip, including devices that can cut out plaque and thus open up the narrowed artery. Although treatment of acute heart attack is a very important use of percutaneous coronary intervention, it has several other uses. Percutaneous coronary intervention can be used to relieve or reduce angina, prevent heart attacks, alleviate congestive heart failure, and allows some patients to avoid surgical treatment (coronary artery bypass graft or CABG) that involves extensive surgery and often long rehabilitation time.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/7/2015

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