One of the greatest concerns of heart disease patients is whether they will need to undergo difficult surgeries. Thanks to a specialized field of medicine known as interventional cardiology, their treatment is often minimally invasive.
Heart Disease Specifics
Heart disease is at the top of the U.S. list for both male and female causes of death. More than 600,000 Americans die of it every year, representing 25 percent of all deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Heart disease includes coronary and valvular disease. Coronary heart disease is the most common kind of heart disease and claims the lives of more than 370,000 patients each year. In addition, about 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack every year.
What Interventional Cardiologists Do
An interventional cardiologist practices a subspecialty of cardiology. Its objective is diagnosing and treating a number of cardiac and vascular disorders in a minimally invasive way in a cardiac catheterization lab. Cardiac catheterization includes inserting flexible tubes through small holes in the skin, then threading them through blood vessels to remove any blockages in a vessel. Wake Forest Baptist Health indicates that these physicians use catheter-based techniques to work with these conditions:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart valve disease
- Congenital heart disease
- Vascular disease
Type of Procedures
Interventional cardiologists determine which procedure or combination best fits each patient’s needs. According to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, they commonly perform the following kinds of procedures:
- Angioplasty and stenting require inserting a tube through a vessel in the leg or the wrist and guiding it to the heart or another place in the body. An injected dye helps guide the physician, who inflates a balloon attached to the tube to stretch an artery and increase the amount of blood that reaches the heart. A stent is a mesh device typically placed in a blood vessel to make sure it stays open.
- Atherctomy involves using implements with small blades to cut away plaque deposits inside a blood vessel.
- Carotid stenting opens the carotid arteries, which are the principal blood vessels going to the brain. This procedure lessens a patient’s risk of a stroke. Other procedures used to help prevent stroke are called ASD and PFO closures.
- Embolic protection involves using filters and other devices to make sure that plaque does not break off and cause damage after blood transports it. Physicians typically use this procedure when the patient has narrowing in a bypass graft or in a carotid artery.
- Percutaneous mitral valve repair requires inserting a catheter in a leg vessel and then guiding it to the heart through a vein. This technique uses a small catheter with a clip that is positioned in such a way to cause proper functioning of the mitral valve. Cardiologists also use an interventional procedure for transcatheter aortic valve replacements.