Angioplasty – also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) - is a nonsurgical procedure that opens blocked or narrow coronary arteries, improving blood flow to the heart muscle.
During this procedure, the doctor inserts a long, thin tube (catheter) into the narrowed part of the artery. A wire with a deflated balloon is passed through the catheter to the narrowed area. The balloon is then inflated, compressing the deposits against the artery walls.
A stent (a small mesh tube) may be placed in a coronary artery to help keep it open. Currently, there are different types of stent available, namely Dual Therapy Stent, Bioresorbable Vascular Scaffold, Bio-engineered Stent, Drug Eluting Stent and Bare Metal Stent.
What happens during PCI?
A small incision or cut is made in the skin over a blood vessel in the leg, arm or wrist through which a catheter is threaded and the procedure performed. The procedure can take from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the individual case (number of blockages, complexity etc).
Angioplasty is performed by a cardiologist and a team of cardiovascular nurses and technicians in a special operating room called a cardiac catheterization laboratory, often referred to as a cath lab.
During the procedure, the patient is sedated but awake and receives fluids and blood-thinning medications (anti-coagulants) through an IV catheter.
Here’s what happens:
- After numbing the skin, a small needle is used to access an artery in the leg or arm and a small cut is made in the skin.
- The doctor will insert a thin guide wire followed by a catheter into the artery and thread from the incision area up to the blockage in the heart.
- A small amount of dye is injected through the catheter to help the doctor look at the blockage on X-ray images called angiograms.
- A small balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated, widening the blocked artery. After the artery is stretched, the balloon is deflated and removed. The doctor might inflate and deflate the balloon several times before it is removed, which stretches the artery a bit more each time.