Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting
Coronary angioplasty and stenting, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is a procedure designed to treat blockages in the coronary arteries, hence supplying the heart with more blood flow carrying more oxygen. This may in turn reduce or eliminate angina (chest pain), or reduce cell death (muscle damage) in the acute setting of a heart attack.
The procedure follows on from an angiogram as described above. Once blockages are ascertained and PCI is deemed to be the appropriate treatment, the blockage is often first cleared or reduced with small balloon-tipped catheter delivered into the coronary artery. This is almost always followed by placement of a 'stent": a stent is a small metal alloy mesh-tube (or "metal coil") acting like scaffolding that supports the opened artery to allow it to heal in a favourable mold.
Following PCI patients will invariably be treated with antiplatelet agents (often more than one). These will generally include aspirin and another agent. This most commonly is clopidogrel (or alternative) for elective (planned, non-emergency) PCI and will often continue for a minimum of 6 months if not longer. Shorter durations dictated by the clinical scenario, or additional blood thinning medications (anticoagulants like warfarin or similar) may be discussed and various regimens used.