Overview of Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA)

Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), or angioplasty, is an invasive procedure performed to reduce or eliminate blockages in coronary arteries. The goal of PTCA is to restore blood flow to blood-deprived heart tissue, reduce the need for medication, and eliminate or reduce the number of episodes of angina (chest pain).

Opening a blockage, or a plaque, in a coronary artery typically involves the use of an angioplasty balloon. When the blockage is calcified or so dense that a balloon cannot be placed, other devices are used. Plaque can be cut out, ablated with a laser, or bored out using a surgical drill bit. Often, a stent is implanted after angioplasty to keep the artery open and prevent restenosis (regrowth of plaque).

The arteries are accessed through a needle puncture made in the groin (femoral artery) or arm (brachial artery). Usually the femoral artery is used.

More than one blockage can be treated during a single session, depending on the location of the blockages and the patient's condition. The procedure can take 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the number of blockages being treated.

Indications for Angioplasty

Angioplasty is recommended for patients with one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Blockage (stenosis) of one or more coronary arteries
  • Angina not well controlled with medication
  • Angina that disrupts daily activities, occurs at rest (i.e., without exercise or exertion), or recurs after heart attack

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jul 2000

Last Modified: 04 Jan 2012