Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI)

Approximately 40% of hospitalised heart attack patients have a STEMI. This type of heart attack happens when the blood supply to one of the heart’s arteries is cut off completely as a result a blood clot.

High quality care for these patients includes early diagnosis and rapid treatment to reopen the blocked artery. Until September 2014 most STEMIs in Northern Ireland were treated by giving patients a clot-busting drug (thrombolysis). Patients in the Western Trust will previously have been treated by a paramedic or at Altnagelvin/ South West Acute hospital followed by planned PCI which was only available in Belfast prior to this service development in the west of the province.

Dr Albert McNeill, Consultant Cardiologist and Clinical Lead, Western Trust said: “If a patient has a STEMI heart attack, they will be taken directly to Altnagelvin Hospital for a primary percutaneous intervention(PPCI) which is a procedure to open the heart artery which has blocked. This procedure is done by inserting a fine tube called a catheter in the patient’s wrist artery, passing through to the heart and opening the heart artery with a balloon on the catheter.

“Although other ways to open a heart artery have been used in the past for example by using “clot busting “ or thrombolytic drugs, research, clinical evidence and international guidelines indicate that PPCI is the treatment of choice for patients with STEMI, which saves lives, reduces complications, speeds recovery and shortens length of hospital stay."


The following clip outlines the work of the Cardiac Catherisation Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital. The clip follows the experience of a patient suffering a heart attack (Myocardial infarction) - transfer to the Catheter Labs, where they immediately receive primary angioplasty treatment.

The team outlines  the advantages of Primary PCI treatment, clearly explaining the procedure and stress the symptoms that patients should be aware of. The clip emphasises the importance for patients and clinical staff in the quick transfer of heart attack (MI - Myocardial Infarction) patients to the unit for treatment. This clip demonstrates the successful implementation of this treatment pathway on a local patient and the techniques used in a primary angioplasty procedure. This is an amazing insight into the procedure and the fantastic care that can now be received in world-class facilities.