Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)

Percutaneous coronary intervention is a procedure used to open narrowed or clogged heart arteries. It can restore blood flow to your heart during a heart attack.

What is PCI?

PCI is a common cardiovascular procedure. It is performed to widen narrowed or reduce blockages in your coronary arteries (blood vessels that supply the heart). It restores the blood flow to your heart that has been deprived of oxygen and nutrients. Subsequently, symptoms such as angina (heart-related chest pain) and breathlessness are improved.

During a PCI, a tiny balloon catheter is inserted in your blocked or narrowed coronary artery under X-ray guidance. It is then inflated to stretch your artery open. This is called angioplasty.

Usually, a short wire-mesh tube, called a stent, is then inserted into your artery. The stent is left in place permanently. It helps to keep your artery open and decrease its chance of narrowing again to allow blood to flow more freely.

Often a drug-eluting stent is used which is coated with medication to reduce the risk of your artery becoming blocked again. However, you will need to take certain medications to help reduce your risk of blood clots forming around the stent. The alternative is a bare-metal stent. Your cardiologist will discuss the benefits and risks of each type of stent with you.

PCI is sometimes used as an emergency treatment for patients who have had a heart attack. An emergency coronary angioplasty for a heart attack is known as a Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI).

What are the benefits of a PCI?

A PCI can greatly improve your quality of life and may help you to live longer.

The benefits of a PCI include:

  • reduces angina
  • improves shortness of breath
  • improves blood flow of your coronary artery without having to have open heart surgery
  • reduces the amount of damage to your heart when the fast opening of your blocked artery is needed during a heart attack
  • increases your chances of surviving, more than thrombolysis (clot-busting medication), if you've had a heart attack
  • may reduce the risk of heart attacks in the future
  • makes you feel better and increases your ability to be active.

How long does percutaneous coronary intervention take?

A percutaneous coronary intervention usually takes between 30 minutes and two hours, although it can take longer.

What is the recovery process after a percutaneous coronary intervention?

After a non-emergency PCI, you can expect to leave the hospital the same or the following day. You should arrange for someone to take you home.

You may have soreness and bruising where the catheter was inserted and your chest may feel tender for a few days. You can take paracetamol to relieve any pain.

Most people need to take blood-thinning medications for up to a year after a PCI. Your healthcare team will advise you on this and your recovery time.

For about a week after your PCI, you should avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activities and not drive a car. You can expect to go back to work after a week.

If you had an emergency PCI, your recovery will be slower and it may be several weeks or months until you can resume normal life and work.

You will be given advice about lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of future problems. These include losing weight if you're overweight; stopping smoking if you smoke; eating a healthy low fat and low salt diet; and being active and exercising regularly.

What is the cost of a percutaneous coronary intervention?

You will receive a formal quotation price for your percutaneous coronary intervention following your consultation and any required tests with one of our expert cardiac surgeons. This formal quote will be valid for 60 days and includes unlimited aftercare.

Ramsay is recognised by all major medical insurers. PCI surgery is covered by most medical insurance policies. We advise you to obtain written authorisation from your insurance provider before your procedure.

We have a number of finance options if you are paying for your PCI yourself. These include:

  • Interest-free finance – 0% interest, no deposit and affordable monthly instalments.
  • All-inclusive Total Care - one-off pre-agreed payment for access to all the treatment and aftercare you need for complete reassurance.
  • Pay as you go – flexible funding to pay for your treatment as and when costs arise. Often used if your treatment costs are difficult to assess.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention at Ramsay Health Care

The cardiologists at Ramsay Health Care UK are experts in PCI surgery and regularly perform this procedure. They are supported by experienced specialist nurses and physiotherapists.

You will have access to convenient appointments to discuss and assess your symptoms. Your cardiologist will request prompt cardiac tests to evaluate the condition of your arteries and to find out exactly where your blockage or narrowing is.

All Ramsay hospitals adhere to strict infection control and prevention protocols to minimise the risk of any infection, including COVID-19.

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