Another important factor is our philosophy of having physicians deeply knowledgeable about specific procedures. For example, some of our cardiologists perform peripheral vessel catheterization techniques on the legs, kidneys, and carotid arteries. The importance of this experience cannot be overstated.
Our interventional cardiologists perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in a state-of-the-art facility. We are currently in the midst of an ambitious plan to expand the department’s resources, with a new cath lab scheduled to open within the year. The fact that St. Francis Hospital remains an innovator in the field enables us to bring the most definitive, experienced care possible to our patients.
Interventional Cardiology - An Overview
Cardiac catheterization is the gold standard for diagnostic assessment of patients’ heart function and the status of their valves and coronary arteries. Cardiac interventional procedures are mainstays in the treatment of patients with cardiac disease or defects. Treatments performed in our department include coronary interventions for clearing blocked coronary vessels and device closure techniques used to repair certain congenital defects.
- Diagnosis of blocked coronary and peripheral arteries
- Coronary artery angioplasty and stent placement
- Peripheral vascular stenting for patients with disease in their legs
- Carotid stenting for patients with blockages in the carotid artery
- Angioplasty in kidney arteries for patients with blocked renal arteries
- Device closure techniques to repair congenital heart defects, such as patent foramen ovale and atrial septal defects
Diagnostic cardiac catheterization - As a diagnostic procedure, cardiac catheterization allows a cardiologist to assess the function of the heart, evaluate the cardiac valves and the coronary arteries. The procedure involves guiding a thin catheter by way of vessels in the legs or arm into the coronary arteries. Once in the coronary arteries, a contrast agent is released and specialized imaging equipment traces its path to obtain information about blood flow and vessel function. This procedure takes about a half hour, under local or general anesthesia, depending on the individual patient’s needs. Most patients are ready to return home about 2 hours after the procedure.
Coronary angioplasty - As a treatment, a cardiac catheter can be used to insert a device to open or clear a blocked artery. About one third of the procedures performed in the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory are coronary angioplasties, which are performed to clear blockages in the coronary arteries. Compared with open-heart surgery, coronary angioplasty is a far less invasive alternative for clearing a coronary artery blockage.
Stent placement - Stents are flexible mesh coils inserted in an artery immediately following coronary angioplasty to help keep the artery open and reduce the scar tissue developing at the site of the angioplasty (restenosis). Stents are often coated with drugs that further help to prevent restenosis. St. Francis Hospital currently uses stents in a majority of angioplasty procedures.
Repair of congenital defects - Device occlusion involves threading a special catheter through a vein in the leg to the heart and using it to position a small umbrella-like device to seal a hole in a patient’s heart. Device occlusion has benefited patients suffering from atrial septal defect – a congenital hole between the upper chambers of the heart – and those with patent foramen ovale -- a defect that occurs when a flap in the wall of the heart fails to close naturally. Using cardiac catheterization techniques to repair congenital heart defects results in quicker recovery times and elimination of many potential risks associated with open-heart surgery.
Research & Clinical Trials
The Department of Interventional Cardiology is currently conducting clinical trials and research on the following three topics:
- Use of cardiac catheterization techniques for mitral valve repair
- Correcting selected congenital heart defects
- Newer stent procedures still in clinical research trials