What Procedures Do Interventional Cardiologist Perform?

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There are many different aspects to bodily function, each often requiring a specially trained doctor. The heart, as important as it is to the body, also has a special doctor. A cardiologist is the type of doctor that specializes in treating all of the cardiovascular system, including veins, arteries, and the heart. When there are issues with any part of your cardiovascular system, you have multiple options for treatment. An interventional cardiologist is one such option.

The Basics of Interventional Cardiology

Similar to other aspects of cardiology, interventional cardiology deals with treatments for issues relating to the cardiovascular system. The difference is that this branch involves treatments that are non-surgical in nature. Procedures performed in this form of cardiology are minimally invasive, meaning the procedures used often present less stress to the body and less healing time. Common procedures performed in interventional cardiology include angioplasty and stenting, percutaneous valve repair, atherectomy, and embolic protection.

Angioplasty and Stenting

During an angioplasty, also called a balloon angioplasty, the cardiologist makes a small incision near a large blood vessel, often in your leg or arm, and inserts a very thin tube. The tube is guided to your heart or other areas that might be having issues such as blockages. A dye has been injected to allow the cardiologist to see inside the veins as the tubing is guided to its target.

After the tubing is in place, a small balloon at the end is inflated to open the targeted vein or artery. A small piece of mesh is inserted at the location to allow proper blood flow to resume. Once the stent is in place, the balloon is deflated and the tubing is removed. The incision is sealed and blow flow is monitored to ensure the stent is working properly.

Percutaneous Valve Repair

This procedure is often chosen when there is damage to the heart’s valves. The valves are responsible for controlling blood flow in and out of the heart. Damage to a valve can be dangerous and reduces blood flow. Heart doctors will use tubing, similar to angioplasty, to guide devices into the damaged valve.

Devices that are used often include special clips. These clips are guided to the damaged area and are then used to repair the damage found in the valve. Once completed, blood flow is measured to ensure proper function.


An atherectomy is often the choice when you have certain types of build-up or clogging in veins or arteries. It involves using a thin tube with special shaving devices on the end. The shaving devices can be a burr or rotary type.

In this procedure, the cardiologist will insert the tubing close to the blocked area. The shaving device is then activated and used to break apart or shave off any plaque or scar tissue that has attached to the walls of your vein or artery. In some cases, a laser is used in place of a shaving device, particularly when there is a large amount of build-up. The laser vaporizes the plaque instead of breaking off pieces.

Embolic Protection

In embolic protection, your cardiologist’s goal is to protect your cardiovascular system from the potential hazards of other procedures such as an atherectomy. Since removing build-up involves breaking pieces of plaque up, the plaque travels through the cardiovascular system. Large pieces can lead to more blockages, creating more problems.

To prevent this from happening, heart doctors often use special filters. The filters are placed in strategic locations that will maximize prevention and catch as much debris as possible. These filters do not remain in place for long. In fact, they have usually served their purpose by the end of the procedure and are then removed.

Tiny Heart Pumps

There are some cases when the heart struggles to function properly. Such cases include coronary heart disease and low blood flow output. In these instances, the use of a heart pump is often recommended. A heart pump is designed to help your heart function properly while taking stress off your heart from working harder than usual to meet your body’s demand.

The procedure for installing a heart pump was once considered quite invasive; it required a rather extensive surgical procedure. The invention of tiny heart pumps has changed that. These tiny pumps can be inserted into the left heart ventricle using a thin tube. The tube is used to guide the pump into place.

Transcatheter Valve Replacement

The need to replace heart valves previously required very invasive open-heart surgery. Also called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Intervention, is less invasive. The cardiologist uses a thin tube to guide the valve replacement piece into place. This is often the option provided to patients who suffer from severe aortic stenosis.

Transcatheter Closures

Heart defects can range in severity, but there are often common procedures used to repair these defects. Transcatheter closures are one procedure that may be used. For defects that include some sort of hole or rip in your heart, a transcatheter closure is a less invasive option.

In this procedure, the cardiologist will use a thin tube and mesh. The tube is used to guide the mesh in place over the hole or tear. The purpose of the mesh is to provide a structure for tissue to grow and attach to, effectively closing the hole or tear.

Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation

If you are suffering from atrial fibrillation, there are several treatment options. Afib is a condition in which your heart tissues are producing abnormal electrical pulses. These pulses interrupt how the heartbeats. As a minimally invasive procedure, radiofrequency catheter ablation may be recommended to stop these abnormal pulses.

As with other interventional cardiology procedures, this treatment option involves utilizing a thin tube to deliver cold or heat energy to the tissues in your heart producing harmful pulses. The tissue is destroyed in this method, reducing the pulses and creating beneficial scar tissue. The scar tissue created can be thought of like an insulator, preventing any other tissue from producing abnormal pulses in that area.

The whole purpose of an interventional cardiologist is to provide you with treatment options that are not only suited for your particular condition, but that also give you options that do not involve invasive surgeries and long recovery times. As modern medicine advances, so do the options for treatment. Devices get smaller and extensive surgeries become less necessary. Heart conditions that were once considered terminal now have exceptional recovery rates. Cardiology patients can experience a better quality of life, and interventional cardiology plays a large role in that outcome.

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