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Cardiothoracic Services

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Coronary Angioplasty / Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)

Coronary Angioplasty or Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) (sometimes called Primary PCI, PTCA or stenting) is a technique for treating narrowing of the coronary arteries.

It helps improve blood supply to the heart muscle and can relieve angina symptoms.

Patients first have an angiogram. Sometimes the angioplasty is done at the same time, if the location and type of narrowing suggest this is the best treatment. However, patients may need extra tests to decide the best course of action.

During angioplasty, a catheter - a fine, flexible, hollow tube - with a small inflatable balloon at its tip, is passed into an artery in either the groin or the arm. The balloon is then inflated so that it squashes the fatty tissue in the narrowed artery, allowing the blood to flow more easily.

A stent is usually put in place to reduce the risk of re-narrowing - this is a small tube of stainless steel mesh which acts as 'scaffolding'.

As the balloon is inflated, the stent expands so that it holds open the narrowed blood vessel. The balloon is let down and removed, leaving the stent in place.

Patients who have stents need to take certain drugs to help reduce the risk of blood clots forming around it.

Primary Angioplasty

Angioplasty is sometimes used as an emergency treatment for people who have had a heart attack.

A heart attack is caused by a blocked artery, and it is very important to open the artery as quickly as possible and restore the blood supply to the heart.

This emergency procedure is available 24/7 at Oxford Heart Centre.

The procedure is similar to an angioplasty, but because the patients are having a heart attack they may need extra equipment to help the heart pump, for example a balloon pump, or rhythm, such as a temporary pacemaker.

Patients usually stay in hospital for two to three days after this procedure.


The majority of procedures result in a successful outcome. In cases where the procedure is unsuccessful, usually no harm is done and the patient is no worse than before.

After a successful procedure most patients begin to feel a benefit, and this continues over the following months.


NHS website - Coronary angioplasty and stent insertion - Risks

Further information

British Heart Foundation - Coronary angioplasty and stents