Medical technology is constantly evolving, particularly in terms of diagnosis and treatment for heart disease and heart attack. The latest available options for these heart conditions are called cardiac interventions. Performed in a specialized cardiac catheterization lab, cardiac interventions offer timely, minimally invasive diagnosis and treatment options.
Types of Cardiac Interventions
During a cardiac catheterization, the doctor inserts a long, thin tube (the catheter) into an artery, usually the one in the patient’s groin. The catheter is threaded up to the heart. Depending on the patient’s condition, the cardiologist may then perform several different procedures:
- Coronary Angiogram: The catheter inserted during a coronary angiogram allows the cardiologist to get a more complete picture of the heart. Special dye is inserted into the catheter and travels to the muscles of the heart. The dye makes any blockages or narrow places much more visible, so that the doctor can determine the most appropriate treatment.
- Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI): Used to unblock the arteries of the heart, PCI uses a balloon at the end of the catheter to loosen and remove plaque that blocks the artery. Once the catheter is in place, the doctor inflates the balloon, breaking up the plaque. This procedure may also be called a balloon angioplasty. Doctors often place a stent in the artery afterward, to hold it open as it heals.
- Rotational Atherectomy: If calcium has built up in the artery, a balloon angioplasty may not be sufficient to remove it. In that case, the cardiologist uses a highly specialized tool to chip away at the calcium deposits and open up the artery. This procedure is also generally considered a type of PCI.
Who Needs Cardiac Intervention
Doctors can use cardiac intervention to both diagnose and to treat specific heart conditions. If your doctor believes that you may have dangerous blockages in your arteries, he or she may recommend a coronary angiogram. The minimally invasive procedure can help determine the extent of blockage and whether further intervention is needed.
Most patients who receive cardiac interventions are those who have heart attacks. For the most deadly kind of heart attack, called STEMI, emergency PCI is the most effective treatment option. The American Heart Association and other professional medical organizations note that STEMI time, or the time it takes for a patient to receive cardiac intervention after setting foot in the hospital, must be under 90 minutes to guarantee the best patient outcomes. At Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute, our STEMI times consistently beat the national standard.
It’s important for patients to know that not every hospital has a cardiac catheterization lab. On the contrary, only a small percentage of hospitals have these highly specialized facilities and the medical experts on staff to perform the procedure.
If you have questions about cardiac interventions or heart health, call Consult-a-Nurse® at 1-800-382-3522 to make an appointment with a cardiologist.