What Does Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) Mean And When Is It Done?


Question: What does percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) mean and when is it done?

Answer: Percutaneous coronary intervention is a way of re-establishing blood flow down the coronary arteries that feed the heart. This is usually done to open up a blockage in the artery in people who have chest pain with exertion, typically.

Or percutaneous coronary intervention can be done in the acute setting when you have a heart attack. Percutaneous means that you're going through the skin, with a tube usually from the groin area. We guide that instrument up to the heart, and then we sort of open up the blockage, sort of from the inside-out, as opposed to coronary artery bypass graft surgery, which requires a full-blown operation where you cut the breast plate of the chest and then reestablish blood to the heart using bypasses that the surgeons place.

So percutaneous coronary intervention has been a major advance, particularly in patients who may have a heart attack, because we can open up that blocked artery.

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