PCI vs. Protected PCI: What is the Difference and Which One is Right for Me?

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)

Percutaneous coronary intervention—or PCI—is a nonsurgical procedure performed in the catheterization lab (cath lab) by an interventional cardiologist. The purpose of the procedure is to open up narrowed arteries using either a stent and/or balloon angioplasty.

During a balloon angioplasty, the interventional cardiologist uses a long, thin tube called a catheter that has a small balloon on its tip. The catheter is threaded through an artery which leads directly to the heart. Once in place, the balloon is inflated at the blockage site in the artery to flatten or compress the plaque against the artery wall.

During a stent procedure, a catheter is also inserted through an artery into the heart by an interventional cardiologist. A stent is a small, mesh-like device. When a stent is placed inside of a coronary artery, it acts as a support or scaffold, keeping the vessel open. By keeping the vessel open, the stent helps to improve blood flow to the heart muscle. Stent procedures are usually used along with balloon angioplasty.

PCI is recommended for people with blocked coronary arteries who otherwise have a healthy heart.

Protected PCI

Protected PCI, or protected stenting, is a widely accepted procedure using Impella®, the world’s smallest heart pump, to temporarily assist the pumping function of the heart. Impella may enable placement of a stent for patients who are at high risk for complications or have severe heart disease.

Protected PCI is recommended for hemodynamically stable patients with a combination of severe coronary artery disease, and other conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, advanced age, peripheral vascular disease, complex lesions, history of angina, or prior surgeries.


In summary, both PCI and Protected PCI are procedures that allow the narrowed coronary arteries of the heart to be opened and can lead to an improved quality of life due to easing of heart failure symptoms. The severity of your heart disease and other medical conditions will determine which procedure is recommended for you. Ask your cardiologist to discuss treatment options with you.


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