Thumbnail image of: Blood Vessel Dilation with Balloon Catheter: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Circulatory System: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Coronary Artery Stent: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Heart Catheterization: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Heart, External View: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Plaque Buildup in Arteries: Illustration

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) Discharge Information

What is percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)?

Arteries carry blood to all parts of your body. Heart arteries can become blocked or narrowed by plaque. Plaque is a buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances on the inside walls of the arteries.

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is a procedure in which your healthcare provider inserts a flexible tube called a balloon catheter into a blocked artery in your heart to unblock it. It can open up the artery and allow blood to flow without the need for major surgery. A metal mesh device called a stent is often left in the artery to help keep the blood vessel open. The procedure may also be called coronary angioplasty or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). PCI may be done during a heart attack to reduce heart muscle damage.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

How long it takes to get better depends on how much your heart muscle was damaged, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. People with successful PCI have good long-term results. However, your arteries may narrow again. If this happens, it usually happens within 6 months after the first procedure. You need to make lifestyle changes to be healthier and to help keep from needing PCI in the future. There are several things you can do.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicines to:
    • Relax and widen blood vessels and allow blood to flow through them easier
    • Help prevent blood clots
    • Reduce blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and reduce the workload of the heart
    • Control cholesterol levels
    • Reduce fluid build-up and swelling in the body
    • Reduce straining with a bowel movement
    • Treat pain


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for all routine testing you may need.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or fears you have.

Diet, Exercise, and Other Lifestyle Changes

  • Follow the treatment plan your healthcare provider prescribes.
  • Get plenty of rest while you’re recovering. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • You will probably need to make changes in some of the foods you eat. Ask your provider about the benefits of talking to a dietician to learn what you need in a healthy diet.
  • If your angina was caused by plaque build-up in your heart arteries, you will need to eat a diet low in sodium, low in cholesterol and high in fiber.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if there are any foods or medicines you should avoid.
  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color, unless you are told to limit fluids.
  • Lose weight if you need to and keep a healthy weight.
  • Exercise as your provider recommends.
  • Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can worsen poor blood circulation.
  • Find ways to make your life less stressful.

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Chest pain or pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of your chest that lasts more than few minutes, or goes away and comes back (may feel like indigestion or heartburn)
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, or in your back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Trouble breathing
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat for no known reason
  • If your provider has prescribed nitroglycerin for angina, pain that does not go away after taking your nitroglycerin as directed
  • Along with the previous symptoms, feeling very tired, faint, or sick to your stomach

If you have any of these symptoms, do not drive yourself.

Call your provider right away if you have new or worsening:

  • Pain or numbness in your arm or leg
  • Bleeding, excess bruising, or a lot of swelling where the catheter was inserted
  • Chest pain that gets worse or happens more often
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Inability to do your normal daily activities
  • Feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too slow, or skipping beats
  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
    • The area around your wound is more red or painful
    • Your wound area is very warm to touch
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
    • You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C)
    • You have chills or muscle aches
  • Signs of a problem when you are taking blood thinners, such as:
    • Unusual bruising
    • Red or black bowel movements
    • Cuts that do not stop bleeding

Ask your healthcare provider about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-07-30
Last reviewed: 2014-07-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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