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What Is Interventional Cardiology?

Interventional cardiology is a specialized field of cardiology that focuses on catheter-based heart procedures. Catheter procedures use small, hollow tubes (catheters) inserted through your blood vessels to reach your heart. They offer a less invasive, non-surgical approach to many heart surgeries. 

Interventional Cardiologist vs. Cardiologist

Interventional cardiologists and general cardiologists both treat a range of heart conditions, provide medication management, lifestyle counseling, and offer other heart treatments. They will discuss the risks and benefits of potential catheter-based procedures and follow-up with you after your procedure is completed. However, interventional cardiologists have additional training to perform catheter procedures.

Do Interventional Cardiologists Perform Surgery?

Interventional cardiologists don’t perform surgery. They do not make large incisions or open up your chest like in open-heart surgery. Sometimes, a catheter-based procedure can replace the need for open-heart surgery. If you need surgery, your interventional cardiologist will refer you to a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Conditions & Treatments

Interventional cardiologists perform a range of procedures using catheters:

  • Diagnostic coronary angiography (angiogram) evaluates your heart arteries for blockages (stenosis)
  • Right heart catheterization evaluates the pressure inside your heart and lungs
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) uses balloons and stents to help open blockages in your heart arteries
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)

You may need an interventional cardiology procedure to treat one of the following conditions: 

What to Expect During Your Appointment with an Interventional Cardiologist

During your first appointment, your interventional cardiologist will review your previous tests and health history. If you haven’t had prior cardiac testing, they may order additional tests:

They’ll discuss managing your condition and lowering your cardiovascular disease risk factors. Then they’ll discuss treatment options and recommend what’s most effective for you. 


During the Procedure

Interventional cardiologists perform catheter-based procedures in a catheterization laboratory (cath lab). They’ll give you specific instructions to prepare for your procedure, such as limiting your food and drink for several hours beforehand. 

What happens during an interventional cardiology procedure varies depending on what specific procedure you need. In general, you can expect the following: 

  1. Your interventional cardiologist will insert the catheter through a blood vessel in your wrist or groin. 
  2. They will direct the catheter up to your heart. Then they inject a contrast dye through the catheter to get a better view of your heart’s blood vessels and structures.
  3. They will thread tools, such as balloons or stents, through the catheter to perform the procedure. 
  4. They will remove the catheter and may apply a dressing over the area. 


Why Choose University of Utah Health?

Our interventional cardiologists, general cardiologists, and cardiac surgeons work together to create effective, personalized treatment plans. We have decades of proven excellence in complicated heart procedures, including catheter-based options. Cardiologists throughout the Mountain West region and beyond send patients to our team for our expertise and personalized care. 

Interventional cardiologists at U of U Health are involved in national physician groups, including the American College of Cardiology and the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions. Our team stays up to date and involved in research so you have access to the latest treatments and technologies, often before they’re widely available. 

When to See an Interventional Cardiologist

You’ll usually start with an appointment with a general cardiologist or primary care provider to evaluate your symptoms. If you have a condition that would benefit from a catheter-based procedure, your provider will refer you to an interventional cardiologist.

Your candidacy for an interventional procedure will depend on several factors. Experts in cardiology, interventional cardiology, and cardiothoracic surgery will collaborate to determine the best treatment option for you.

Find an Interventional Cardiologist Near You

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