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  • Writer's pictureAnupam Jena

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention in Lesions with High Calcium Content: Challenges and Strategies


Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) has revolutionized the management of coronary artery disease (CAD). However, lesions with high calcium content pose a significant challenge to successful PCI due to increased procedural complexity, risk of complications, and suboptimal outcomes. This article explores the intricacies of PCI in calcified lesions, highlighting the diagnostic tools, procedural techniques, and adjunctive therapies that can enhance procedural success and improve patient outcomes.

Challenges of PCI in Calcified Lesions

Calcified lesions present several challenges during PCI, including:

  1. Vessel Preparation: Difficulty crossing the lesion with guidewires and balloons, increased risk of dissection, and suboptimal stent expansion.

  2. Stent Delivery and Deployment: Difficulty delivering and deploying stents, risk of stent malapposition,

Coronary artery with high calcium content

  1. and under expansion.

  2. Complications: Increased risk of periprocedural myocardial infarction (PMI), coronary perforation, and no-reflow phenomenon.

  3. Long-Term Outcomes: Increased risk of restenosis and target lesion failure (TLF).

Diagnostic Assessment

Accurate assessment of lesion severity and calcium burden is crucial for planning PCI in calcified lesions. The following diagnostic tools can aid in lesion characterization:

  1. Coronary Angiography: Provides information about lesion location, length, and severity, but may underestimate calcium burden.

  2. Intravascular Ultrasound (IVUS): Offers detailed cross-sectional imaging of the vessel wall and calcium distribution, aiding in treatment planning.

  3. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): Provides high-resolution imaging of the vessel wall and calcium morphology, guiding procedural decision-making.

Procedural Techniques

Several techniques have been developed to overcome the challenges of PCI in calcified lesions:

  1. Rotational Atherectomy: High-speed rotational burr that debulks calcium, facilitating lesion crossing and stent delivery.

  2. Orbital Atherectomy: Eccentrically rotating crown that sands down calcium, creating a smoother lumen for stent deployment.

  3. Cutting/Scoring Balloons: Balloons with blades or wires that score the calcium, allowing for controlled plaque modification.

  4. Shockwave Intravascular Lithotripsy (IVL): Sonic pressure waves that fracture calcium, facilitating stent expansion.

Adjunctive Therapies

Adjunctive therapies can enhance procedural success and improve outcomes in PCI of calcified lesions:

  1. Intravascular Imaging: IVUS or OCT guidance for optimal stent sizing, deployment, and assessment of stent expansion.

  2. Antiplatelet Therapy: Dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT) with aspirin and a P2Y12 inhibitor to reduce the risk of stent thrombosis.

  3. Anticoagulation: Use of unfractionated heparin or bivalirudin to prevent thrombotic complications.

  4. Vasodilators: Nitroglycerin or calcium channel blockers to improve coronary blood flow and reduce vasospasm.


PCI in lesions with high calcium content remains a complex and challenging procedure. However, with careful patient selection, appropriate use of diagnostic tools, advanced procedural techniques, and adjunctive therapies, successful outcomes can be achieved. Further research is needed to optimize treatment strategies and improve long-term outcomes in this patient population.

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