Cardiac Treatments

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is commonly used to clear clots in the main arteries of the heart, eliminating the need for many patients to undergo open-heart surgery. Patients benefit from reduced pain and recovery time, smaller scars and lower risk.

To access the blocked artery, an interventional cardiologist inserts a catheter—typically in the femoral artery near the groin— and guides the catheter up into the heart using real-time x-ray. Below are descriptions of three common PCI procedures. 

Angioplasty

 

Angioplasty is a procedure in which a small balloon is used to open a blockage in an artery that is narrowed or blocked, immediately restoring blood flow. 

Angioplasty is performed on more than 1 million people each year in the United States. It can improve symptoms of coronary artery disease, and can reduce damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack.

Stenting

 

Stents are designed to prevent recurrence of blockages that can occur with angioplasty alone. They are typically made of metal mesh, but can be made of fabric. Stents are often inserted during angioplasty, once a blockage has been removed, or in cases where an artery is weakened.

Bare-metal stents have no special coating. Bare-metal stents carry slight risk of scar tissue in the arterial lining, which can increase the risk that the artery will become blocked again.

Drug-eluting stents are coated with medication that is slowly released to help prevent the growth of scar tissue in the artery lining.

Thrombus Aspiration

 

For certain types of heart attacks, removing the clot prior to inserting a stent has been shown to improve outcomes. This is accomplished by guiding an export catheter through a sheath to the clot and then pulling the export catheter out, suctioning the blockage with it.