Minimally Invasive Interventional Procedures for Heart Disease
At Carondelet, we understand that, when possible, you’d prefer to avoid surgery for your heart condition. Our experienced doctors at Carondelet Heart & Vascular Institute can help.
What Is Interventional Cardiology?
Interventional cardiology is the branch of cardiology that treats heart disease through minimally invasive procedures using catheterization (a small, flexible tube to reach the heart) techniques rather than traditional surgery. Minimally invasive surgery techniques minimize the number of cuts or incisions during surgery.
The benefits of minimally invasive surgery compared to a traditional surgery include:
- Losing less blood during surgery
- Less damage to skin, muscles and tissues
- Shorter recovery time
- Lower risk of infection
- Smaller scars
What Does An Interventional Cardiologist Do?
Interventional cardiologists, also called interventional cardiology doctors, prevent, treat and diagnose conditions of the heart and blood vessels using catheter-based interventional cardiology procedures and specialized imaging techniques.
Your primary care doctor may refer you for internal cardiovascular medicine if they suspect a cardiovascular problem. Heart disorders or conditions that might need cardiovascular intervention include:
- Angina – occurs when the heart is not getting enough blood. Symptoms may include pressure or squeezing pain in the chest and may also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back.
- Arrhythmia – irregularly slow or fast heartbeats.
- Cardiomyopathy – occurs when the heart is enlarged or becomes stiff.
- Congenital heart defects – heart conditions that are present at birth.
- Heart attack – when a part of the heart is deprived of oxygen-rich blood.
- Heart failure – occurs when the heart is too weak to pump enough blood for the body, which causes fluid buildup.
- Heart valve disorders – abnormalities in the heart valves that ensure that blood in the heart flows in one direction
- Myocarditis – also known as inflammation of the heart.
How Does Interventional Cardiology Work?
One of our interventional cardiology doctors makes a small incision to insert a thin hollow tube or catheter into your artery to make heart repairs. Cardiovascular intervention can be used to clear blocked arteries, correct congenital heart abnormalities and repair heart valves.
In most cases, patients don’t require general anesthesia and can enjoy a shorter hospital stay (some procedures are also done in outpatient interventional cardiology clinics) and a quicker recovery than with surgery. Patients can rest assured that our interventional cardiology doctors are experienced and skilled in every aspect of interventional cardiology, including the following interventional cardiology procedures:
Traditionally, cardiologists access the heart through a femoral artery in the groin. Transradial cardiac catheterization, a new cardiac interventional procedure, uses the radial artery the main artery in your forearm to access the heart.
Our interventional cardiologists use the transradial approach whenever possible. This interventional cardiology procedure is as equally successful as traditional surgery and has a lower risk of complications. In addition, you can sit up right away and walk shortly after the procedure. Generally, it’s a same-day procedure that doesn’t require an overnight stay.
Angioplasty is a nonsurgical interventional procedure used to treat narrowed (stenotic) coronary arteries, a common cause of coronary heart disease. These narrowed segments are caused by the buildup of cholesterol-laden plaques that harden and narrow your arteries.
The interventional cardiology doctor inserts a special catheter into the coronary artery past the blockage using a guidewire. The catheter contains a tiny balloon that is inflated when the catheter is in place. The inflation of the balloon compresses the fatty tissue in the artery and creates a larger opening inside the artery for improved blood flow.
This interventional cardiology procedure is also called a percutaneous coronary intervention. Percutaneous pertains to any medical procedure where access to inner organs or other tissue is done via needle puncture of the skin.
Angioplasty is often combined with the permanent placement of a small wire mesh tube called a stent to help open the artery and decrease its chance of narrowing again. Drug-eluting stents are coated with medication to help keep your artery open, while bare-metal stents have no coating or covering.
Angioplasty can improve symptoms of blocked arteries, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. Angioplasty can also be used during a heart attack to quickly open a blocked artery and reduce the amount of damage to your heart.
Endovascular surgery is a minimally invasive interventional cardiology procedure using catheter techniques on arteries or veins. Interventional procedures involved in endovascular surgery include aneurysm repair, grafts, stents and varicose vein repair.
Alcohol septal ablation
Alcohol septal ablation is an interventional cardiology procedure where a catheter with a balloon on its tip is inserted into the arteries to find an artery that supplies blood to the septum. The septum is the abnormal muscle to be treated. It is possible that no artery can supply alcohol to the septum, and when this happens, our interventional cardiology doctor may have to consider traditional surgical options.
Other treatment options may include:
- Management of cardiac emergencies such as heart attacks
- Pacemaker and defibrillator insertion
- Repair of birth defects
Diagnostic Interventional Cardiology Procedures
Interventional cardiologists have advanced training and access to advanced procedures, which allow them to develop accurate diagnoses for our patients. Your cardiologist may use one of the following diagnostic techniques:
- Cardiac enzyme tests – this lets your interventional cardiology doctor know if your heart has been under stress as well
- Cardiac stress tests – our interventional cardiovascular doctor will monitor your heart while your heart works progressively harder on a treadmill
- Echocardiogram – also called an echocardiography or diagnostic cardiac ultrasound, echocardiogram uses ultrasound to make pictures of your heart
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) – a procedure that measures electrical activity of a heartbeat. An EKG or ECG shows the timing of your heart’s top and lower chambers.
- Fractional flow reserve – determines if oxygen to the heart is being impeded
- General health tests – such as complete blood count, urinalysis, X-rays, blood glucose test, liver and kidney function tests, cholesterol panel, thyroid hormone tests and blood pressure screening
- Heart biopsy – also called a myocardial biopsy, this procedure uses a small catheter to remove a piece of heart tissue.
- Intravascular ultrasound – uses an ultrasound probe attached to the end of a catheter
- Optic coherence tomography – uses light to create images of the coronary arteries
Other diagnostic interventional procedures and tests include:
- Acetylcholine rechallenge
- Coronary flow reserve
- Nipride study
For more minimally invasive tests we offer, click here.