Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) — sometimes referred to as angioplasty — is a procedure the treats narrowed coronary arteries of the heart, which are found in coronary heart disease. Similar to cardiac catheterization, this procedure can treat blockage with two methods: balloon angioplasty or by placing a coronary stent.
Coronary stenting often accompanies angioplasty. Stents are small wire mesh devices used as scaffolding to support and open the wall of an artery, which reduces the chance the artery will re-close.
Balloon angioplasty is a catheter with a balloon tip that is fed through the arteries to the blockage. The balloon is opened and pushes plaque back against the wall of the artery, which allows for better blood flow.
Percutaneous coronary intervention procedures usually take 1-2 hours to complete and are done with local anesthesia. Blood thinners may also be used through an IV to prevent clotting. A medication called clopidogrel (Plavix) along with aspirin is usually prescribed for three months (depending on physician practice) to prevent blood clots forming inside the affected vessel.