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Who Needs Percutaneous Coronary Intervention?

Your doctor may recommend percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) if you have narrow or blocked coronary arteries as a result of coronary heart disease (CHD).

PCI is one treatment for CHD. Other treatments include medicines and coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). CABG is a type of surgery in which a healthy artery or vein from the body is connected, or grafted, to a blocked coronary artery.

The grafted artery or vein bypasses (that is, goes around) the blocked portion of the coronary artery. This improves blood flow to the heart.

Compared with CABG, some advantages of PCI are that it:

  • Doesn't require open-heart surgery
  • Doesn't require general anesthesia (that is, you won't be given medicine to make you sleep during the procedure)
  • Has a shorter recovery time

However, PCI isn't for everyone. For some people, CABG might be a better option. For example, CABG might be used to treat people who have severe CHD, narrowing of the left main coronary artery, or poor function in the lower left heart chamber.

In addition, recent studies show that people with CHD who also have diabetes may have greater benefit from CABG.

Your doctor will consider many factors when deciding which treatment(s) to recommend.

PCI also is used as an emergency treatment for heart attack. As plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, it can rupture. This can cause a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque and block blood flow to the heart muscle.

Quickly opening the blockage restores blood flow and reduces heart muscle damage during a heart attack.

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Updated: August 28, 2014