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Angioplasty (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention)

What Is an Angioplasty?

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) — also known as an angioplasty procedure — is a routine surgery to check coronary arteries for fatty plaque buildups that might cause chest pain or put you at risk for a heart attack.

What is a coronary stent?

A coronary stent is a tube placed in person’s arteries in order to help improve blood flow by stabilizing the arterial walls. Surgeons often use stenting during angioplasty procedures (PCI).

What to Expect During Your PCI/Angioplasty Procedure

Your specialist from the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute will perform PCI by using a long tube, called a catheter.

During your procedure, your doctor will:

  • Make a small puncture in your arm or leg and insert the catheter into your artery.
  • Use an x-ray camera to guide the catheter and inject a dye to determine where your blockages are.
  • Thread a very thin wire into your artery and insert another catheter, with a balloon on its tip, to the site of your blockage.
  • Inflate the balloon to push plaque out of the way and open your artery to restore healthy blood flow.

If necessary, your doctor may inflate the balloon several times, or in several places, depending on your blockages.

In many cases, a stent is also placed to hold your artery open. A stent is a small tube made of metal mesh that is placed in an artery to help improve blood flow by stabilizing the arterial walls.

What to Expect After Your PCI/Angioplasty Procedure

Once your procedure is complete, your doctor will remove the catheters and wires and place a bandage on your puncture site.

During your recovery after angioplasty, you may lie flat for several hours to make sure your blood vessel heals all the way. In most cases, you’ll stay in the hospital overnight.

Once you are able to go home, your doctor will give you information about:

  • When you can return to your normal activities
  • How to check your puncture site for signs of infection
  • What medications you may need to take
  • When to call your doctor or 9-1-1 if you have certain symptoms

Same-Day Discharge for PCI

While typical PCI patients are kept overnight for monitoring, at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, we understand that people recover most comfortably in their own homes. We now offer some patients the opportunity to go home the same day after PCI.

Following a strict set of standards, we check whether you are at low risk to start with. If so, we monitor you after PCI and — in some cases — we can discharge you within hours after the procedure. 

Some benefits of same-day discharge include:

  • More comfortable recovery.
  • Same-day pharmacy program so you have all your medicine before you leave the hospital.

For the safety of eligible same-day discharge patients, we provide an on-call phone number that we answer 24 hours a day. We encourage patients to call should they have any questions.

We follow up with patients 24 hours post-procedure in order to check on their results.  Patients are free to return to non-physical labor 24 hours post-treatment and physical labor 48 hours post-treatment.

To find out if you are a candidate for same-day PCI discharge, please talk to your doctor.

“...Our goal is to make sure that your experience is comfortable, pleasant, and gets you to the point where you want to be — having a high quality of life and going home as quickly as is reasonably possible.  And, in the ideal situation, that’s the same-day discharge where we know that you’ll do as well at home as you would do in the hospital.”
Dr. Conrad Smith, Cardiologist at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute​

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