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Interventional Cardiology

Heart-to-heart care in the most advanced surroundings.

Sometimes heart conditions require direct treatment of physical abnormalities and sometimes specialists can accomplish this without open surgery of the chest. In fact, today the list of cardiac procedures that heart teams can accomplish without conventional surgery continues to grow.  In these cases, specialists intervene primarily but introducing tiny tubes called catheters and advancing them into different areas of the heart.  (The procedure most commonly involves inserting a sheath into the femoral artery in the groin to gain access to the major blood vessels.)  Through these catheters, they can introduce and manipulate various tools to correct the anatomy of the heart.  Radiologic imaging during the procedure allows them to control their catheter-based tools and watch the progress of the intervention.  Among areas that are targets for treatments are:

• Coronary arteries.  It is important to understand the basic anatomy and function of the coronary arteries, which are small vessels on the surface of the heart that supply blood to the muscular wall of the heart.   When these arteries narrow or become blocked, interventional cardiologists can detect such abnormalities with a cardiac catheterization procedure in which they inject a contrast dye into the coronaries and take an x-ray image of blood flow through them.  This is an important diagnostic test (coronary angiography).

A state-of-the-science cardiac catheterization lab
at Aria's Heart Center.

In the same catheterization procedure, or a subsequent one, the team can use the same access to open the blockage with different types of catheter  tools.  These may be a tiny balloon to expand the narrowed area, a laser to vaporize calcification and create an opening through the vessel, or tiny rotating instruments that cut through the blockage.  This removal of coronary blockages is called angioplasty, meaning an altering of the structure or internal shape of the artery.  (The procedure is also called percutaneous coronary revascularization.)

Sometimes heart specialists will perform this catheter angiography and angioplasty on an emergency basis, if patients are suffering the symptoms of a heart attack.  In this case, the procedure is more likely to also include placing a stent in the compromised section of coronary artery.  This tiny, expandable metallic coil helps to keep the coronary vessel open.

• Valves. Cardiac interventionalists can also use balloon catheters to stretch open narrowed heart valves.

• Heart wall. Interventionalists in the catheterization lab can apply special mesh devices to close holes or other defects in a wall (septum) that separates the chambers of the heart.

Aria's heart center uses the latest in digital imaging for the angiographic images that support these procedures.  This provides the fastest, most precise pictures of the intervention in progress while exposing the patient to the least amount of radiation. Aria's Heart Center operates catheterization laboratories at its Torresdale and Bucks County campuses.  These interventional labs are open 24 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days each year, and handle both elective and emergency cardiac catheterization.