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JAMA Patient Page |

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention FREE

Janet M. Torpy, MD, Writer; Cassio Lynm, MA, Illustrator; Richard M. Glass, MD, Editor
JAMA. 2004;291(6):778. doi:10.1001/jama.291.6.778.
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Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is a treatment for persons experiencing myocardial ischemia (inadequate blood flow to the heart) or myocardial infarction (heart attack). The goal of PCI is to open up a coronary artery (blood vessel that brings blood and oxygen to the heart muscle) and restore blood flow. Primary PCI is an emergency treatment performed to reduce the amount of heart muscle permanently damaged by a heart attack. Primary PCI reduces the mortality (death) rate from heart attack. The February 11, 2004, issue of JAMA includes an article about the use of PCI to treat heart attacks.


Percutaneous coronary intervention requires the use of the cardiac catheterization suite with special equipment, x-ray capability, and trained personnel. Usually access to the heart and major blood vessels is obtained through the femoral artery in the groin area. The artery is punctured through the skin with a special needle. Under x-ray guidance, a catheter is threaded through the femoral artery up into the aorta (large artery from the heart) and then gently advanced into the affected coronary artery. There, a balloon is used to open the coronary artery (balloon angioplasty) and restore blood flow. Sometimes a stent (a mesh-like metal tube that holds open the artery) is placed at that time to maintain good blood flow through the damaged area.Percutaneous coronary intervention is not the right treatment for everyone. Your individual treatment options should be discussed with your doctor.


  • Chest discomfort

  • Feeling of discomfort in the neck, jaw, or arms (especially the left arm)

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea or breaking into a cold sweat

  • Feeling faint

  • Indigestion—not typical or related to food

If you or someone around you has these warning signs, activate the local emergency medical services response by calling 911 immediately.



To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on heart attack treatments was published in the July 28, 1999, issue; one on women and heart disease was published in the December 25, 2002, issue; and one on risk factors for heart disease was published in the August 20, 2003, issue.

Sources: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Heart Association; American College of Cardiology

The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval. To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.




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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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