Before you have percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), your doctor will need to know the location and extent of the blockages in your coronary (heart) arteries. To find this information, your doctor will use coronary angiography (an-jee-OG-rah-fee). This test uses dye and special x rays to show the insides of your arteries.
During angiography, a small tube (or tubes) called a catheter is inserted into an artery, usually in the groin (upper thigh). The catheter is threaded to the coronary arteries.
Special dye, which is visible on x-ray pictures, is injected through the catheter. The
x-ray pictures are taken as the dye flows through your coronary arteries. The dye shows whether blockages are present and their location and severity.
During PCI, another catheter with a balloon at its tip (a balloon catheter) is inserted in the coronary artery and placed in the blockage. Then, the balloon is expanded. This pushes the plaque against the artery wall, relieving the blockage and improving blood flow.
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention
A small mesh tube called a stent usually is placed in the artery during the procedure. The stent is wrapped around the deflated balloon catheter before the catheter is inserted into the artery.
When the balloon is inflated to compress the plaque, the stent expands and attaches to the artery wall. The stent supports the inner artery wall and reduces the chance of the artery becoming narrow or blocked again.
Some stents are coated with medicine that is slowly and continuously released into the artery. They are called drug-eluting stents. The medicine helps prevent scar tissue from blocking the artery following PCI.
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention With Stent Placement
For more details about angiography, PCI, and stent placement, go to “What To Expect During Percutaneous Coronary Intervention.”