Our highly trained cardiologists, electrophysiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and vascular specialists are experienced in performing a wide range of surgical treatments for heart conditions. CHRISTUS Health is here to provide the best interventional cardiology care, from stent placement to angioplasty to various catheterization lab procedures.
Our experienced team, combined with the state-of-the-art technology and facilities available now at CHRISTUS Health, assure you of our dedication to quality, patient safety and compassionate care.
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What Is Interventional Cardiology Used For?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a heart condition, you may encounter healthcare specialists and treatment options that are new to you. Cardiologists generally focus on heart health, but there are many sub-specialties, such as interventional cardiology.
Interventional cardiologists are heart experts who specialize in minimally invasive procedures that diagnose and treat several types of cardiovascular disease and heart conditions.
These procedures involve making tiny cuts in the skin and threading a thin tube called a catheter into the incision. The catheter is then guided through the blood vessels to the site of the problem. Real-time imaging technology is often used to help guide the catheter to the correct location.
The exact type of catheter-based procedure depends on the diagnosed or treated condition.
What Are Symptoms of an Unhealthy Heart?
The first sign of coronary artery disease is often a heart attack. That is not the only symptom you may experience. Other heart problems have signs and symptoms that you should investigate. You may need a heart test if you experience the following:
- Activity-induced chest pain
- Dizziness that may lead to fainting
- Foot, ankle, stomach or neck vein swelling
- Frequent fatigue
- Noticeably fast heartbeat
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Pounding in the chest
- Shortness of breath that may cause anxious feelings
While these symptoms can be short-lived and not dangerous, they may indicate heart disease. If caused by an arrhythmia, valve disorder, or coronary artery disease, they can be dangerous and even deadly. A heart test gets to the bottom of the issue so you can protect your most important muscle.
What Are Common Interventional Cardiology Procedures?
Cardiac catheterization is the most common interventional cardiology procedure. In fact, it is one of the most common of all heart surgeries. According to Stat Pearls, surgeons perform more than 1 million cardiac catheterizations annually in America. However, there are several other cardiac catheter-based procedures. Surgeons can attach tools to the tip of the catheter and pass devices through it into your body. These operations aim to improve your cardiac health and function.
Along with cardiac catheterization, other interventional cardiology procedures commonly prescribed include:
- Atherectomy. Fat, cholesterol and other materials attached to artery walls are collectively called plaque. When your arteries become clogged with plaque, your blood flow becomes restricted. An atherectomy ensures that blood flows more freely to the heart and reduces pain. Sometimes, an atherectomy treats blocked arteries leading to the brain, reducing your stroke risk.
- Balloon angioplasty. Surgeons pass a tiny balloon through the catheter, inflate it, and open an artery clogged by plaque. By widening a narrow artery, the procedure restores blood flow. A balloon angioplasty is often combined with another procedure called stenting. After an angioplasty, your provider may prescribe medication to prevent clogging in the future.
- Myocardial biopsy. Surgeons use a special tool to pinch off a tiny bit of tissue from the heart muscle. This sample is then reviewed for abnormalities. Myocardial biopsy is a standard test to check for rejection after heart transplantation. It also detects dangerous and deadly heart conditions.
- Stenting. Surgeons place a small wire mesh tube called a stent inside a blocked artery to open the area. Stenting often takes place after balloon angioplasty. By doing this, your provider prolongs the effects of angioplasty. The medical term for this combination of angioplasty and stenting is “percutaneous coronary intervention.”
- Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). A new heart valve replaces a damaged one. This allows more blood flow through the body and heart. During the procedure, the interventional cardiologist places the replacement valve inside the damaged one. It then takes over the damaged valve’s blood flow.
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A calcium score test (calcium scoring) is a noninvasive, low-risk heart scan used to find out more about your risk of heart disease. Along with other tests, such as blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol screenings, calcium scoring can be an important tool for your heart health.
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Cardiac Arrest & Heart Attack
Heart attacks can vary in severity, with some survivors suffering only minor, short-term complications while others experience long-term effects. Regardless of the severity of your heart attack, you should treat it as a warning sign and take steps to reduce your risk for heart disease and future heart attacks.
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What Interventional Cardiology Tests Are Available?
Minimally invasive interventional cardiology tests include:
- Cardiac catheterization. Using X-ray guidance, an interventional cardiologist guides a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to part of the heart. The interventional cardiologist uses the catheter for various diagnostic purposes.
- Coronary angiography. Your interventional cardiologist injects dye into your arteries through the catheter. This special dye shows how blood moves through your heart. If a problem exists, your provider may order additional tests.
- Fractional flow reserve (FFR). A special wire passes through the catheter to test your FFR. This measures how much blood flows through a specific blocked artery. With this information, your care team can determine the best treatment approach.
- Intravascular ultrasound. A catheter moves through your arteries with an ultrasound wand attached to the top. This device sends high-frequency sound waves that create images of the heart’s arteries. By using these images, physicians can better understand the state of your artery walls and help you get the proper care for your condition.
Why Were You Referred to an Interventional Cardiologist?
Cardiologists and interventional cardiologists care for a variety of cardiac conditions. When your condition may respond to catheter-based therapies, your PCP will refer you to an interventional cardiologist.
Conditions that respond well to interventional cardiology services include:
- Arrhythmias. Whether your heart races, beats too slowly or occasionally skips a beat, arrhythmias put your good health at risk.
- Coronary and vascular disease. Clogged arteries and blood vessels put you at risk for all sorts of harm, including heart attack and stroke.
- Structural heart conditions. Deformed or diseased heart valves, chambers and walls all reduce your heart’s ability to function.