Family Health: High readmission rate for angioplasty is troubling

Percutaneous coronary intervention, or angioplasty, is a common and effective procedure to open narrowed or blocked arteries supplying blood to the heart.

These procedures are usually performed in the hospital and can be lifesaving for heart attack patients. For other patients, PCI can reduce symptoms such as chest pain and improve a person’s ability to participate in activities like walking or sports.

However, one in seven patients undergoing PCI will return to the hospital within 30 days.

Readmission rates for PCI and other conditions vary widely by hospital. This variation suggests that there may be room for improvement.

At Community Medical Center, we are dedicated to reducing readmission rates and ensuring the highest quality of care. We participate in national programs, such as the American College of Cardiology’s National Cardiovascular Data Registry, to measure the care we provide and compare that information to other hospitals across the country.

At Community, our readmission rate is no different than the 1,196 other hospitals participating in the CathPCI Registry across the nation.

We are constantly looking for ways to bring you better care.

We also strive to engage our communities, including physician offices, cardiac rehabilitation centers and agencies, in identifying opportunities to further reduce readmission rates for these procedures. For more information on this program, as well as every day strategies for heart health, visit

What can you do to prevent readmission?

  • Understand why PCI was needed and what it means. Knowing what is going on in your body will help you take action to stay healthy.
  • Follow all discharge instructions. Make sure you understand how to care for yourself at home. For example, which medications you need to take and when, any warning signs of problems, and/or if there are certain activities you should avoid and for how long.
  • Take your medications as directed. Your heart doctor (cardiologist) may prescribe blood thinners and other medications to manage your condition. Don’t stop taking these without talking with your doctor first. To learn more about common heart medicines, visit
  • Schedule, and keep, follow-up appointments with your cardiologist. This will help you work together to track your progress and know if treatments are working.
  • Ask about cardiac rehabilitation. These programs are tailored to individual patients and can help lower the risk of future heart problems. A team of health professionals provides education and support to help you recover and start new, healthy habits, such as eating right and getting more exercise.
  • Commit to a heart-healthier life. To keep your heart healthy and your arteries open, you need to live a healthier life. Eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise, stop smoking (if you smoke), and reduce stress.
  • Report any changes. Tell your doctor if you start having chest pains or any other new or changing symptoms.

And remember, if you think you are experiencing a life-threatening event like a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Thomas Maley is a registered cath lab technologist and certified professional in health information systems at the Montana Heart Center at Community Medical Center.