Interventional cardiology is a sub-specialty of cardiac care that involves using catheters to treat structural heart diseases. Our interventional cardiologists have additional specialized training to perform minimally invasive tests and procedures. The following are some examples of interventional tests and procedures cardiologists use to view and evaluate heart structure, heart function and blood vessel blockages:
Diagnostic cardiac catheterization is the process of introducing catheters, hollow plastic tubes 2 to 3 mm in diameter, into veins and/or arteries in the leg, or arm, from where they are advanced to the right and/or left sides of the heart. Once the catheters are positioned in the various heart chambers or blood vessels, the pressure of the blood in various chambers of the heart can be measured, blood samples can be taken, and dye (radiographic contrast material) can be injected to allow x-ray visualization, a process called angiography. Unlike bones, which are easily seen on an x-ray, the heart and blood vessels cannot be visualized by x-ray unless they are filled with contrast dye.
Permanent Pacemaker Insertion
A permanent pacemaker is a self-contained device that is surgically implanted in a pocket under the patient's skin at the chest. One or two wires are placed in the vein at the top of the chest. Pacemakers allow the patient's heart to beat on its own but keep the heartbeat from falling below a preset rate. After the procedure, the patient is to stay in the hospital overnight. When going home, it's best to wear a button up shirt because the patient will have limited movement of the arm on the side the pacemaker was planted until the staples are removed. Your physician will discuss with you further about the amount of movement that is allowed.
Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) Insertion
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator is used in patients at risk for sustained elevated heart rate (tachycardia). An ICD may be recommended if a patient has had a ventricular arrhythmia, a heart attack, survived a sudden cardiac arrest, a congenital heart disease or other underlying conditions for sudden cardiac arrest. The device is connected to leads positioned inside the heart or on its surface. These leads are used to deliver electrical shocks, sense the cardiac rhythm and sometimes pace the heart, as needed. The leads are connected to a generator, typically a little larger than a wallet and have electronics that automatically monitor and treat heart rhythms recognized as abnormal. Newer devices are smaller and have simpler lead systems. They can be installed through blood vessels, eliminating the need for open chest surgery. After the procedure the patient is to stay in the hospital overnight.
Internal Cardiac Defibrillator Testing
ICD testing is when your heart is put into an abnormal rhythm and the device shocks the heart to put it back into a normal rhythm.