Interventional Cardiology

Interventional cardiology is a type of cardiology that focuses on treating heart disease with catheters. Our board-certified interventional cardiology team uses catheter-based procedures to restore the heart’s blood flow.

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Benefits of Interventional Cardiology

These procedures are typically minimally invasive since they don’t require an incision or any large instruments. In most cases, the cardiologist inserts a catheter through the femoral artery in your leg and guides it towards the heart, veins, or arteries using X-ray equipment.

Minimally invasive cardiology procedures offer you several benefits, including:

  • Decreased risk of infection
  • Reduced pain
  • No large scars
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Requires only a local anesthetic and you can remain awake

The Goal of Interventional Cardiology

Regardless of the specific interventional cardiology procedure you have, the purpose of the procedure is to treat heart issues conservatively and avoid surgery. Following a procedure, cardiologists can prescribe medication, physical therapy, nutrition therapy, or several other non-surgical interventions to help further restore your heart health.

Common Procedures Using Interventional Cardiology

Our interventional cardiologists offer several forms of these minimally invasive procedures.

Coronary Angiography and Intra-Cardiac Pressure Measurements (CATH)

This procedure helps the cardiologist determine the overall effectiveness of your heart. Specifically, it shows diseased valves, arteries, or muscles of the heart. While conducting the procedure, the cardiologist can determine the blood flow and pressure in the heart. Contrast dye inserted through the catheter shows up on an X-ray as it flows through your arteries.

If the cardiologist detects a problem such as a blocked or narrowed coronary artery, a stent can be placed to open it up immediately. This procedure also allows the cardiologist to check all four of the heart’s chambers, take a sample of blood from a chamber, evaluate how well the chambers pump and contract, diagnose defects and remove a small sample of tissue for biopsy purposes.

Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting (PTCA)

This procedure, also called percutaneous coronary intervention, opens the clogged arteries of the heart. The cardiologist inserts and inflates a small balloon to help widen the clogged artery. Many individuals undergo angioplasty and receive a wire mesh stent at the same time. The stent keeps the artery open and reduces the chances of a future blockage. The stent may or may not have a medication coating to help keep your artery open.

An angioplasty is useful in relieving symptoms of blocked arteries such as shortness of breath and chest pain. The UPMC Western Maryland cardiology team also uses it if you are having a heart attack, so they can open a blocked artery as quickly as possible and reduce heart damage.

Emergency Heart Attack Treatment

Both heart catheterization and angioplasty are common emergency treatments during a heart attack. An experienced cardiologist is available any time of the day or night to treat you if you’re coming into UPMC Western Maryland with heart attack symptoms.

Intracoronary Blood Flow Measurements with Doppler Wires

This procedure enables the cardiologist to determine the current ratio between the maximum blood flow of the diseased artery and the maximum flow in a normal artery. The cardiologist uses doppler wires to help calculate the ratio between aortic and coronary pressure. The number provides insight into the degree of disruption to coronary flow. Another name for this calculation is fractional flow reserve (FFR). One of the greatest benefits of this technique is the ability of the cardiologist to differentiate insignificant lesions from lesions that could cause worsening heart disease.

Intracoronary Ultrasound Imaging

An intracoronary ultrasound is a type of imaging that uses a catheter with a miniature ultrasound probe attached to its distal end. The cardiologist attaches the proximal end of the catheter to a computer that will display the images. This equipment enables the cardiologist to see the blood vessels surrounding your heart as well as the heart’s inner wall.

Once the image hits the computer screen, the cardiologist can see how much plaque has accumulated on the wall of your arteries. A large amount of plaque increases the risk that you will suffer a future heart attack or narrowing of the arteries, known as stenosis.