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What To Expect After Percutaneous Coronary Intervention

After percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), you'll be moved to a special care unit. You'll stay there for a few hours or overnight. You must lie still for a few hours to allow the blood vessel in your arm or groin (upper thigh) to seal completely.

While you recover, someone on your health care team will check your blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen level, and temperature. The site where the catheters were inserted also will be checked for bleeding. That area may feel sore or tender for a while.

Going Home

Most people go home the day after the procedure. When your doctor thinks you're ready to leave the hospital, you'll get instructions to follow at home, such as:

  • How much activity or exercise you can do. (Most people are able to walk the day after the PCI procedure.)
  • When you should follow up with your doctor.
  • What medicines you should take.
  • What you should look for daily when checking for signs of infection around the catheter insertion site. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, and drainage.
  • When you should call your doctor. For example, you may need to call if you have shortness of breath; a fever; or signs of infection, pain, or bleeding.
  • When you should call 9–1–1 (for example, if you have any chest pain).

Your doctor will prescribe medicine to help prevent blood clots from forming. Take all of your medicine as your doctor prescribes.

If you got a stent during the PCI, the medicine reduces the risk that blood clots will form in the stent. Blood clots in the stent can block blood flow and cause a heart attack.

Recovery and Recuperation

Most people recover from the PCI and return to work within a week of leaving the hospital.

Your doctor will want to check your progress after you leave the hospital. During the followup visit, your doctor will examine you, make changes to your medicines (if needed), do any necessary tests, and check your overall recovery.

Use this time to ask questions you may have about activities, medicines, or lifestyle changes, or to talk about any other issues that concern you.

Lifestyle Changes

Although PCI can reduce the symptoms of coronary heart disease (CHD), it isn't a cure for CHD or the risk factors that led to it. Making healthy lifestyle changes can help treat CHD and maintain the good results from PCI.

Talk with your doctor about your risk factors for CHD and the lifestyle changes you should make. Lifestyle changes might include changing your diet, quitting smoking, being physically active, losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress.

For more information, go to the Health Topics Heart Disease Risk Factors article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's “Your Guide to Living Well With Heart Disease.”

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Your doctor may recommend cardiac rehabilitation (rehab). Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program that helps improve the health and well-being of people who have heart problems.

Cardiac rehab includes exercise training, education on heart healthy living, and counseling to reduce stress and help you return to an active life. Your doctor can tell you where to find a cardiac rehab program near your home.

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Updated: August 28, 2014