Understanding Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)

Emory Heart & Vascular Center interventional cardiologists have been at the forefront of the development and application of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). As a primary investigational site for new treatment modalities, we continue to make great strides in improving long-term benefits while providing the best possible care for our patients. In 2009, more than 11,500 interventional procedures were performed at all Emory labs, with more than 4,000 performed at the Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown locations alone.

The History of Angioplasty

Coronary artery bypass surgery, also called coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), is used to route blood around hardened or narrowed portions of the coronary artery (coronary artery disease) to improve oxygen-rich blood supply to the heart muscle.

The first balloon angioplasty procedure was performed in 1977 by Andreas Gruentzig, MD, who joined the Emory faculty in 1980 and worked with Emory cardiologists to refine and research the technique that was to revolutionize the treatment of heart disease. Learn more about the Dr. Gruentzig, the history of angioplasty and Emory’s role in the development of this breakthrough procedure.

What Is PCI?

PCI, also called percutaneous coronary intervention, is a procedure that uses a catheter (thin, flexible tube) and small balloon threaded through a blood vessel in the groin or arm and guided to heart to open a blocked or narrowed coronary artery. The balloon is rapidly inflated to expand the part of the artery that has narrowed and improve blood flow. In most cases, a stent (thin mesh tube) is then inserted to keep the artery open. In addition to improving blood flow, stenting decreases the chances of the blockage returning the future, and new stenting techniques have reduced recurrence of atherosclerosis significantly.

PCI performed during a heart attack (also called a myocardial infarction, or MI) can help prevent permanent damage to the heart muscle and greatly improve survival odds. The sooner the blocked artery is opened using PCI, the greater the odds of survival and freedom from complications. Emory Healthcare has a sophisticated system for the treatment of heart attacks using PCI, and a comprehensive team of doctors, nurses and technicians are on call at all times to treat these patients as quickly as possible.

PCI is minimally invasive and can sometimes be used as an alternative or additional treatment for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

What Does PCI Treat?

PCI is used in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) to relieve chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart or to minimize damage to the heart muscle during a heart attack (which occurs when blood flow is cut off to an area of the heart).

Locations to Receive Angioplasty at Emory Healthcare

Cardiac catheterization laboratories are located at Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown and The Emory Clinic. Our labs are staffed by specially trained physicians, nurses and technologists to provide high-quality care and effective treatment for patients with heart and vascular diseases.

Emory University Hospital Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories
John S. Douglas, Jr., MD, Director

The late Andreas Gruentzig, MD, renowned for pioneering angioplasty in 1977, directed the angioplasty program at the Emory University School of Medicine from 1981 until his death in 1985. Also a member of that early pioneering team, current director John S. Douglas, MD, has continued to be a world leader in the progression of interventional cardiology. The nation's first coronary stent procedure was performed by Dr. Douglas in 1987.
Map to Emory University Hospital

Emory University Hospital Midtown Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories
Henry A. Liberman, MD, Director

The Cardiac Catheterization Suite accommodates Emory University Hospital Midtown's five Cardiac Catheterization Labs and two Electrophysiology Labs. The suite has access to a dedicated elevator for ease in transporting patients to and from other areas within the hospital. These are the most utilized and fastest growing catheterization labs in Atlanta.
Map to Emory University Hospital Midtown

The Emory Clinic Outpatient Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory
John S. Douglas, Jr., MD, Director

Located directly across the street from Emory University Hospital, the Outpatient Lab specializes in providing diagnostic services for ambulatory patients in a relaxed, private-office setting with easy access to hospital facilities. Pre-procedure preparation, cardiac catheterization and post-procedure recovery areas are all located within the same suite. Family members can stay with patients before their procedure and during their recovery period.
Map to The Emory Clinic

Emory Johns Creek Hospital Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory
Greg Robertson, MD, Director

The Emory Johns Creek Hospital Cardiac Catheterization Lab provides the highest level of care for patients requiring cardiovascular procedures. Opened in spring of 2010, the lab offers residents of North Atlanta more timely access to emergency cardiac catheterization care and has already outperformed expectations in both quality and volume.