PCI is a non-surgical method used to open narrowed arteries that supply heart muscle with blood (coronary arteries).
Percutaneous actually means "through unbroken skin." Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is performed by inserting a catheter through the skin in the groin or arm into an artery.
At the leading tip of this catheter, several different devices such as a balloon, stent, or cutting device (atherectomy can be deployed. The catheter and its devices are threaded through the inside of the artery back into an area of coronary artery narrowing or blockage.
PCI used to include just percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), but now encompasses balloons (PTCA), stents (metal scaffolding expanded inside the artery lumen), and other modifications to the catheter tip, including devices that can cut out plaque and thus open up the narrowed artery.
Although treatment of acute heart attack is a very important use of PCI, it has several other uses. PCI can be used to:
Relieve or reduce angina
Prevent heart attacks
Alleviate congestive heart failure
Treat cardiogenic shock
Allow some patients to avoid surgical treatment (coronary artery bypass graft or CABG) that involves extensive surgery and often long rehabilitation time