Interventional Cardiology is a branch within Cardiology that specifically deals with minimally invasive catheter-based testing and procedures of structural heart diseases. Simply put, an interventional cardiologist has extra training and can perform advanced procedures that a standard cardiologist cannot. A cardiologist works heavily with patients on preventative care strategies to help heart conditions from progressing. If a cardiologist has a patient with a more serious condition, they would then refer you to an interventional cardiologist for analysis and treatment options. Your interventional cardiologists also work with patients on preventative care strategies but spend a great deal more of their time running tests and procedures on those patients. An interventional cardiologist’s patients typically have more serious conditions such as heart disease or blocked arteries.
An interventional cardiologist is required to meet a minimum of one year interventional cardiology fellowship in addition to the standard specialized training required to become a cardiologist. This simply means they are required to have additional education and training in the diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease and structural heart conditions through catheter-based procedures.
What are catheter-based procedures?
Cardiac Catheterization can help confirm, and in many cases treat, heart problems. A catheter is a long, thin, flexible tube that is inserted into a blood vessel and guided to the heart. A catheter allows photos to be taken and testing inside the heart. It allows your cardiologist to gather information about the structure and overall function of your heart such as:
- Whether the blood vessels are narrowed or blocked
- If your heart is pumping normally
- If blood is flowing properly through the heart
This is typically the first step in procedures and allows your cardiologist to rule out certain heart problems and come up with a proper treatment plan for you.
Other procedures your interventional cardiologist may perform are balloon angioplasty, stenting, and bypass surgery. These are procedures to open arteries and improve or make possible normal blood flow to your heart.
For this procedure, the catheter is used to insert a special balloon into the blocked artery. The balloon is inflated and deflated as necessary to open that artery.
A Balloon angioplasty is typically followed by stenting in which a wire mesh tube is inserted into the artery to keep it open. Stenting is something that will be left in the artery permanently to keep it from closing. Depending on your situation, a drug eluting stent may be used to release medication to avoid scar tissue build up over time as it heals.
Bypass surgery is advised when blockages cannot be opened with angioplasty or when that is not the recommended treatment for your situation. Bypass surgery creates a new route around the blockages in the arteries that allows blood to flow to areas of the heart that have not been getting enough blood due to the blockage.
These are just a few of the most common tests and procedures that an interventional cardiologist can perform. If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart condition or would like more information, Dr. Thomas would love to help you get heart happy. Self-Referrals are welcome and most insurances are accepted.