Coronary angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention or PCI, is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure used to open narrowed arteries. It involves the use of a flexible catheter with a balloon at the tip which is inflated at high pressure on the narrowed arterial wall. Usually a stent (metallic wire mesh) will be placed in the artery after angioplasty. This will force the arterial plaque against the blood vessel and improve the blood flow to the heart muscle.Coronary angioplasty is associated with a relatively lower risk and faster recovery than coronary bypass surgery, an open heart surgery. However, the artery can narrow again despite the stent.
The procedure is performed under local anaesthesia. A small puncture is made, usually in the groin, wrist or elbow. A sheath is inserted into the opening and a guiding catheter is placed through the sheath into the blood vessel. Contrast is injected through the catheter so that the doctor can see the arteries on the X-ray screen.
Once the catheter reached the narrowed artery, the doctor will position the balloon within the blocked section of the artery. The balloon is then inflated to squash the blockage so that blood flow can be restored to normal.