Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI), also known as angioplasty or coronary angioplasty, is a procedure used to treat the narrowed coronary arteries of the heart and angina in patients. Therefore it is sometimes used as an emergency treatment for patients who have had a heart attack.

Effect on patients

As with any medical procedure there are risks involved. Your consultant will talk to you about the risks and benefits of this procedure and how these correlate to your own medical condition and health. Royal Papworth Hospital is one of the UK’s leading centres in coronary angiography, angioplasty and stenting procedures, undertaking high volumes with a lower complication rate than other peer group hospitals.  

For some patients coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) rather than coronary angioplasty may be advised.  Your consultant will advise you on the best treatment for your condition and answer your questions. 

What happens during the procedure

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) is a procedure to unblock a coronary artery. A catheter (a fine, flexible, hollow tube) with a small balloon at the end is inserted through an artery in the groin or arm. The balloon is directed to the blockage using X-ray guidance. Next, the balloon is inflated so that it pushes the fatty tissue in the narrow artery out of the way in order to improve the blood supply in the heart. A stent is inside the catheter, this is a small tube of stainless steel mesh which expands as the balloon is inflated and allows the narrowed blood vessel to be enlarged and held in place. The balloon is then deflated and removed, leaving the stent in place. This is often called coronary stenting.

What to expect afterwards

It is common for a patient to experience some bruising or swelling where the catheter was inserted. Recovery time is often quick with some people going home on the same day or the day after the procedure. However, if you have had an emergency coronary angioplasty for a heart attack, you may need to stay in hospital for a longer period.


Royal Papworth Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation team works with patients to offer support, to answer any questions you might have following your operation and to advise you on how to continue to stay well and keep your heart healthy.

Patient guides to download: 

Cardiac surgery