Percutaneous Coronary Intervention


Percutaneous coronary intervention is a coronary artery disease treatment used to open blockages in the coronary arteries due to atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of cholesterol deposits (called plaque) in the arteries. Atherosclerosis develops over many years and causes narrowing of the space through which blood can flow, decreasing the amount of blood reaching the heart.

Percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as coronary angioplasty, uses several methods to enable increased blood flow into the heart:

  • Balloon angioplasty – in this procedure, a balloon is inflated in the blocked coronary artery to flatten the plaque and increase blood flow, after which the balloon is deflated and removed.
  • Coronary artery stent – a tiny coil is expanded inside the artery after angioplasty to keep the artery open.
  • Bare metal stent – a tiny metal coil is placed and absorbed into the wall of the coronary artery over a period of time.
  • Drug-eluting stent – a bare metal stent covered with medication to prevent re-narrowing in the artery.
  • Atherectomy – the blocked part of the artery is cut away by a tiny device on the end of a catheter.

Percutaneous coronary intervention often greatly improves blood flow through the coronary arteries and the heart, often helping patients avoid the need for coronary artery bypass surgery, or CABG surgery, a much more invasive procedure.

Patients seeking percutaneous coronary intervention or other artery disease treatment will find expert and compassionate care at the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

World-class care for patients with coronary artery disease at the Shapiro Center

The Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital provides patients with a world-class facility and expert physicians specializing in comprehensive cardiovascular care, including percutaneous coronary intervention. The Center's Cardiovascular Medicine division is equipped with robotics and sophisticated imaging equipment for innovative and interventional procedures. Percutaneous coronary intervention and many other procedures are performed in a seamless, coordinated environment, allowing better collaboration between the team of specialists and staff.

Alternatives to percutaneous coronary intervention

In addition to percutaneous coronary intervention, physicians may recommend a variety of other treatment methods, including:

  • Lifestyle modification to reduce risk factors such as smoking, poor dietary habits, high blood pressure and elevated glucose levels, and lack of exercise.
  • Medications such as antiplatelet medications (which reduce the ability of blood platelets to stick together and form clots), anticoagulants or blood thinners, antihyperlipidemics to lower lipids (fats) in the blood, antihypertensives to lower blood pressure, and other drugs to relieve angina and improve heart function.
  • Coronary disease surgery such as coronary artery bypass surgery, which routes blood around a blockage in the artery, or other surgical procedures for patients with more complex artery disease.

Learn more about Percutaneous Coronary Intervention at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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