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Coronary angioplasty (or PCI) is a procedure to re-open a narrowed heart artery by inflating a tiny balloon in the narrowed segments.

Coronary Angioplasty (sometimes called Percutaneous Coronary Intervention or PCI) is a procedure to widen or unblock an artery using a small inflatable balloon.

Having a Coronary Angioplasty (or PCI) to widen or unblock an artery should improve the flow of blood without you having to have open heart surgery. This procedure may also improve your breathing if blocked or narrowed arteries are causing you to be short of breath. Sometimes it can be used to treat an artery during or soon after a heart attack or to reduce the risk of you having another heart attack.

What happens during coronary angioplasty?

A sheath (a short, soft plastic tube used to access your artery) is usually inserted in your femoral artery near your groin or radial artery near your wrist. Local anaesthetic may be used on the insertion area.

Your consultant will pass a catheter along the artery to your heart. Using x-ray guidance and contrast dye they will pass a small tube with a tiny inflatable balloon at the end down the catheter and across the narrowed part of the artery. They will then inflate the balloon to widen the artery. They will also expand a stent inside the artery to hold it open. The balloon is then deflated and withdrawn. They may leave the stent to hold the artery open.

How long does Coronary Angioplasty (PCI) take?

A Coronary Angioplasty (PCI) usually takes between 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on your own situation. Your consultant may offer you a sedative to help you relax.

Coronary Angioplasty (PCI) recovery

After your procedure you will need to remain in bed for several hours. Our healthcare team will monitor your recovery. Be sure to let us know if you are in any pain. You may be able to go home the day of your procedure. In some cases an overnight stay may be required. You will not be allowed to drive until your consultant releases you to do so. Please arrange for someone to take you home.

You should avoid any strenuous activity or heavy lifting until your consultant releases you. Continue taking any high blood pressure or cholesterol medications as prescribed.

Bruising around the insertion area is normal. Contact us if you experience any increase in pain, redness, swelling or discharge from this area.

You should discuss any return to work with your consultant.

Coronary Angioplasty (PCI) complications

As with any procedure there could be complications:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Infection

Specific complications of coronary angioplasty may include:

  • Reaction to contrast dye
  • Change in heart rhythm
  • Re-narrowing of your artery
  • Heart attack or stroke (rare).

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