Percutaneous coronary intervention (angioplasty)

If your coronary artery disease is causing symptoms like chest pain, fatigue, or shortness of breath, University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center specialists can help.

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also called angioplasty, can clear blockages in your arteries and help you feel better. It will also reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. Our highly trained cardiologists have extensive experience in minimally invasive procedures to open blocked arteries safely and effectively.

Our approach to PCI

PCI is a minimally invasive way to open coronary arteries that are blocked by plaque.

In many cases, we can perform PCI even if you’ve been told you’re not a good candidate because you have a high risk of complications. Our heart specialists have special expertise in treating advanced coronary artery disease in every kind of patient—even those who are high-risk.

Our collaborative approach means that you’ll have a whole care team making your treatment plan and choosing the approach that’s right for you.

Your care team will include interventional cardiologists, heart surgeons, heart imaging specialists, advanced practice nurses, and anesthesiologists. They work together to tailor your procedure to your symptoms and your overall health.

Types of PCI

PCI uses a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. While you’re relaxed but awake with sedation and a local anesthetic, your cardiologist will insert it into a small incision in your groin or wrist.

They’ll thread the catheter through the artery to your blockage and choose their approach based on your specific condition. Techniques could include:

  • Atherectomy: The catheter is fitted with a tiny blade or laser that clears plaque from the artery walls.
  • Balloon angioplasty: A balloon on the end of the catheter inflates to compress arterial plaque and widen the artery.
  • Stenting: After your blockage is cleared, your cardiologist may place a stent. This small mesh tube will hold the artery open.

Whichever procedure you have, you should feel better immediately afterward, with less chest pain and more ability to do physical activity.

It’s likely that you’ll stay in the hospital overnight for observation and go home the next day.

CHIP: If you’ve been told PCI might be too risky

Factors that could make you a high-risk candidate for PCI include:

  • Advanced heart failure
  • A history of diseases such as diabetes
  • Previous open heart surgery
  • Chronic total occlusion (CTO), meaning that your artery has been completely blocked with plaque for three months or more

Even if you have these conditions, you may be able to have complete higher-risk indicated PCI (CHIP) to help relieve your coronary artery disease symptoms.

CHIP requires specialized skills, training, and equipment. Your cardiologist may also choose to use high-tech heart support during CHIP. The Impella temporary heart pump gives your heart a rest while you undergo the procedure.

No one in Iowa or western Illinois has more experience in these procedures than the UI Heart and Vascular Center’s highly trained experts. If you’ve been told there are no options for clearing your heart blockage, we can help.

Get a second opinion from UI Health Care cardiologists

Have you been told you can't have PCI because you're too high-risk? The experts at the UI Heart and Vascular Center treat even the most complex cases.

Care Team