What types of heart diseases are treated with interventional cardiology?

Interventional cardiologists most often treat blockages of the heart, though they may treat blockages around the body.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Interventional cardiologists perform angioplasty and stenting procedures which can open blockages in the coronary arteries that occur in ischemic heart disease. These procedures can be performed in patients with chronic angina in order to reduce symptoms, and risk of future events. They can also be utilized in the emergency setting in order to immediately restore blood flow in the setting of acute myocardial infarction. More recently interventional cardiologists have been exploring catheter based treatments for certain valvular heart diseases. There are also techniques available for closing certain congenital abnormalities such as atrial septal defect.

Interventional cardiologists treat narrowed arteries and weakened heart valves—often caused by coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, or peripheral vascular disease.

  • Coronary artery disease is the narrowing of the coronary arteries, the tubes which supply the heart muscle with blood and oxygen. This narrowing of the arteries is caused by atherosclerosis—the buildup of fatty deposits, cholesterol, calcium, and plaque on the inner surface of the arteries. Atherosclerosis restricts blood flow to the heart, which can lead to heart attack or other heart problems. Symptoms may include angina (intermittent chest pain), shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and/or weakness.
  • Heart valve disease involves heart valves that are not working correctly to regulate the flow of blood through the heart chambers. This can arise from birth defects or through damage by rheumatic fever, bacterial infection, or heart attacks. Valves also can degenerate with the normal aging process. To compensate, your heart must pump harder, and may be unable to supply adequate blood circulation to the rest of your body. Two common forms of heart valve diseases are aortic valve stenosis and mitral valve regurgitation. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of the ankles and legs, fatigue, dizziness, and/or fainting.
  • Peripheral vascular disease involves the other arteries that run throughout your body. Like the coronary arteries in your heart, these vessels can become clogged and hardened through atherosclerosis, and can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke, or limb loss. Symptoms may also include pain in the leg muscles (particularly calves and thighs) and/or severe aching pain in your toes or feet at night.
Dr. Sameer A. Sayeed, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Coronary artery disease and blockages in the coronary arteries are the most common diseases currently treated with interventional cardiology. In these cases, the blockage, which is usually a cholesterol plaque or sometimes a blood clot, can be treated with a device that sucks out the blood clot or a device that rotates and breaks through the plaque. Blockages are also treated with regular balloons that are inflated and push the plaque back against the vessel walls an open the blockage but there are also cutting balloons that cut thru difficult plaques. Stents, either medicated or bare metal non-medicated, are also use to open up blockages and remain for life and help to keep the blood vessel open and expanded. Interventional cardiology has also been used increasingly to treat blockages in other vessels of the body, including the carotid arteries in the neck and renal arteries to the kidneys, as well as arteries supplying the arms and legs in much the same ways as the coronary arteries.

New procedures are now being tested to use interventional cardiology to repair or replace diseased valves in the heart that traditionally were only fixed with open heart surgery but these are still on a trial basis. Interventional cardiology has also been used to treat congenital heart defects that people can be born with, as well as other structural defects of the heart such as hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.

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