What is an interventional cardiologist?

Dr. Michael S. Chen, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

An interventional cardiologist is a cardiologist who has undertaken specialized training to perform interventional procedures on the heart. Usually this consists of placing stents in the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries) to open up blockages. This helps restore blood flow to patients who are having heart attacks. Interventional cardiologists may also perform other procedures on the heart and body's vasculature, such as opening up blocked heart valves without the need for open surgery or treating blockage in peripheral arteries, such as the carotid arteries, leg arteries and kidney arteries.

An interventional cardiologist has advanced education and training in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease as well as congenital (present at birth) and structural heart conditions through catheter-based procedures, such as angioplasty and stenting, repairing heart defects, or implanting new heart valves without surgery.

Interventional cardiologists rank among the world's foremost authorities on cardiovascular disease and its treatment. Many interventional cardiologists become members or Fellows of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI). Fellows of SCAI list the credential abbreviation FSCAI after their names. If your interventional cardiologist is a Fellow of SCAI, this is a mark of excellence in the field. Fellows are required to be Board Certified in interventional cardiology or to be out of training for five years and have performed at least 1,000 procedures (fewer for pediatric interventional cardiologists). What this translates into is an assurance that your interventional cardiologist is experienced, is committed to continuing education, and has undergone rigorous evaluation from distinguished peers in the interventional cardiology field.

Interventional cardiologists rank among the world's foremost authorities on cardiovascular disease and its treatment. An interventional cardiologist is a cardiologist with additional education, training, certification, and experience in minimally invasive procedures performed on the heart and arteries.

You might be referred to an interventional cardiologist for a test called an angiogram, which is used to diagnose blockages in your arteries. If tests reveal a problem, your cardiologist may recommend a procedure such as angioplasty or stenting. During angioplasty, the interventional cardiologist feeds a long, slender tube called a catheter into an artery. A balloon on the catheter opens at the site of the blockage, pushing a substance called plaque aside. Plaque builds up in arteries, eventually restricting blood flow. Angioplasty works to restore the flow of blood in the arteries. Sometimes the interventional cardiologist will also complete a stenting procedure, during which a tiny mesh tube called a stent is inserted into the artery at the angioplasty site to help keep the artery open.

An interventional cardiologist is a critical part of the care team that will be with you throughout diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention. Interventional cardiologists work closely with primary care physicians to coordinate patient cardiovascular care.

An interventional cardiologist has additional specialized training to perform catheterization and other minimally invasive procedures. These approaches can clear blocked arteries, correct congenital heart abnormalities and repair heart valves.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.