Primary angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is a procedure which treats blockages within the coronary arteries and improves blood flow to the heart.
- Primary angioplasty involves stretching any narrowed areas of the coronary arteries using a balloon which is attached to a thin catheter (tube). Like an angiogram, the catheter is inserted, under local anaesthetic, into a main artery in the upper leg or lower arm and then passed gently into the aorta (the large artery which supplies the heart muscle with its own blood supply).
- The balloon, at the tip of the catheter, is blown up at the narrowed area(s) of the artery; this forces the artery open and widens it.
- In the majority of cases a metal stent will also be placed in the artery. A stent is a cylinder of metal mesh which acts like a scaffold to keep the artery open and prevent the artery narrowing again. The artery heals around the stent making it a permanent part of the artery. You will not be aware that it is there.
- If you have a stent, you will need to take certain antiplatelet medicines to help reduce the risk of blood clots forming around the stent.
- Sometimes stents can be used which slowly release medicines, directly to the narrowed area, to help prevent the problem recurring. These are called drug-eluting stents and are used when the risk of re-narrowing is high.