Interventional cardiology at UNC REX Healthcare treats your heart condition using minimally invasive techniques that speed your recovery. Your doctor inserts a catheter—a thin, flexible tube—and tiny medical tools into a blood vessel in your wrist or groin area and threads them up to your heart to perform your procedure. In some cases, you’ll return home the same day.
Advanced Interventional Procedures
Turn to UNC REX Healthcare’s skilled interventional cardiologists when you need one of these procedures.
Coronary Angioplasty & Stenting
During angioplasty and stenting, a doctor uses a catheter to guide a tiny balloon and stent (mesh tube) to a blockage in a coronary (heart) artery. When inflated, the balloon presses plaque tightly against the artery wall, letting blood flow more freely to the heart. The physician removes the balloon but leaves the stent in place to keep the artery open.
Doctors use this procedure to treat heart disease and stop heart attacks—potentially saving your life. At UNC REX Hospital, all heart attack patients from April 2014 to March 2015 received treatment to open blocked blood vessels within 90 minutes of arrival—the national standard.
For an atherectomy, a doctor threads a tiny medical tool up to a blockage in a coronary (heart) artery. The tool cuts up the plaque without harming the blood vessel, and the pieces of plaque are removed. Your doctor also may place a miniature device called a stent to keep the artery open.
Corotid Artery Interventions
The carotid arteries are the large blood vessels in the neck that carry blood to the brain. If the flow of blood through the carotid arteries is blocked suddenly, the result is a stroke. Carotid artery interventions are types of surgery that ensure that blood is able to freely flow to the brain.
When fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in the blood start to build up along the inside wall of arteries, it’s called plaque. If enough plaque builds up in the carotid artery, the risk of a stroke increases. One of the most common causes of strokes is when a piece of plaque breaks off of the wall and travels to the brain. To minimize the risk of stroke (or to reduce the risk of another stroke in patients who have already had one), heart doctors often perform one of two types of surgery: a carotid artery surgery (or endarterectomy) or a carotid stenting.
Peripheral Vascular Intervention
When patients suffer from hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, their arteries are partially blocked by a substance called plaque. When these blockages occur in the legs or arms, they are called peripheral artery disease. Peripheral vascular interventions remove the plaque and restore the flow of blood through the artery. These interventions are medical specialties that treat peripheral artery diseases without surgically opening the leg or arm. Instead, the doctor uses small tools and at least one catheter. A catheter is a thin tube that is inserted into a blood vessel through a small cut, usually in the leg or arm, and threaded to the site of disease. Once in place, it acts as a tunnel, enabling the doctor to efficiently guide the tools to where they are needed.
Structural & Valvular Heart Treatments
Structural and valvular heart care treats problems affecting your heart’s physical structure. Interventional procedures include congenital heart defect correction, valvuloplasty, MitraClip for a leaky mitral valve, and the new WatchmanTM device that may reduce stroke risk if you have atrial fibrillation.
During pericardiocentesis, a doctor threads a catheter into the sac surrounding your heart to drain built-up fluid and relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath. Medical professionals then test the fluid for signs of infection, cancer or other problems.
Sophisticated Cath Lab
Your procedure will take place in UNC REX Hospital’s three-suite cardiac cath lab. Each suite includes high-definition monitors that show detailed, real-time images of your blood vessels, which means you’ll need fewer X-rays and get less radiation exposure.
After treatment, cardiac rehabilitation helps you safely regain strength and endurance and reduce your risk of future heart conditions.