Percutaneous coronary intervention
(aka arthroplasty, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty/PTCA)
Percutaneous coronary intervention is a procedure used to open blocked coronary arteries (caused by coronary artery disease). It restores blood flow to the heart muscle without open-heart surgery. Angioplasty can be done in an emergency setting such as an acute heart attack or in an elective setting when heart disease is strongly suspected from non-invasive testing.
For angioplasty, a special catheter (a long, thin, hollow tube) is inserted into a blood vessel and guided to the blocked coronary artery. The catheter has a tiny balloon at its tip. Once the catheter is in place, the balloon is inflated at the narrowed area of the coronary artery. This presses the plaque or blood clot blocking the artery against the sides of the artery making more room for blood flow.
The use of fluoroscopy (a special type of X-ray that’s like an X-ray “movie”) helps the doctor find the blockages in the coronary arteries as a contrast dye moves through the arteries. This is called coronary angiography.
The doctor may determine that another type of procedure is necessary. This may include the use of atherectomy (removal of plaque) at the site of the narrowing of the artery. In atherectomy, there may be tiny blades on a balloon or a rotating tip at the end of the catheter. When the catheter reaches the narrowed spot in the artery, the plaque is broken up or cut away to open the artery.