Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) Angioplasty and Stenting

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a slow process in which deposits of fat, cholesterol and calcium build up inside your arteries (deposits called plaque). This plaque causes your artery walls to become rough, hard and more narrowed. When your heart vessels or coronary arteries are affected, blood flow and oxygen to your heart are decreased. Atherosclerosis can lead to coronary artery disease (CAD), and when the obstruction reaches a critical point, a heart attack (also known as a myocardial infarction) occurs.


With angioplasty, also referred to as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) with a balloon tip is inserted into a blood vessel. Guided by X-ray and a contrast dye, the tube is threaded to the site in the heart of the coronary artery blockage. Once in place, the balloon is inflated and the plaque is pushed against the coronary artery wall. A stent, a tiny mesh coil often made of a nickel titanium metal alloy, is then placed to prop open the blocked coronary artery. Once the stent is placed in the coronary artery, it is permanently placed. The flexible tube is removed at the end of the procedure.


An angiogram is for diagnostic purposes to determine the exact location of the blockage coronary artery. An angioplasty is the treatment of the blockage. These two procedures can be performed separately or together however, the angiogram is always performed first. Angiogram is performed first to diagnose where the coronary artery blockage is located followed by angioplasty to open the coronary artery blockage.

Related Procedures:

Coronary Artery Chronic Total Occlusion Angioplasty

Coronary artery chronic total occlusion percutaneous coronary intervention (CTO PCI) is sometimes used to treat patients with coronary artery chronic total occlusion (CTO), or complete blockages, of the coronary arteries. Unlike typical angioplasty, which passes the wire through a narrow opening in the coronary artery, CTO involves guiding specialty wires and devices around the blockage within the artery wall. Once the CTO wires are in place, conventional angioplasty techniques are used to prop open the blocked coronary artery.

High-Risk Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (CHIP)

To address the growing population of high-risk CAD patients, the interventional cardiologists at Northwestern Memorial Hospital have demonstrated outstanding clinical outcomes using an advanced catheter-based procedure called Complete Higher Risk Indicated Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) or CHIP to open blocked coronary arteries in the high-risk CAD patient.

Meet the Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Team

Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is a nationally recognized destination for those who require highly specialized cardiovascular care. Meet the Teams
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