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What is Interventional Cardiology?

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Place your hand over your chest. Do you feel that? It’s your lifeline. Your heart beats about 2.5 billon times over the average lifetime. It pushes millions of gallons of blood carrying oxygen, fuel, hormones and a host of essential cells throughout your body. Heart health is important at every age.

Interventional Cardiology is an area of medicine that uses specialized imaging and other diagnostic techniques to evaluate the blood flow and pressure in coronary arteries and chambers of the heart. It is a subspecialty of cardiology, and it deals specifically with catheter-based and stenting treatment of heart and peripheral vascular disease. It is a non-surgical option that uses catheters and wires to repair damaged or weakened vessels, narrowed arteries, or other damaged structural parts of the heart.

Common Conditions

Coronary artery disease. This develops when the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients become damaged or diseased. Cholesterol-containing deposits, also known as plaque, are usually to blame for this disease. The build up of plaque causes your coronary arteries to narrow. This decreases the blood flow to your heart. Eventually, you’ll experience chest pain known as angina and shortness of breath. A complete blockage can cause a heart attack. This disease builds up over decades, and you may not notice a problem until you have a significant blockage or a heart attack. Focusing on a healthier lifestyle can make all the difference!

Heart valve disease. When one or more of the valves in your heart doesn’t work properly, you may have heart valve disease. Your heart has four valves that help the blood flow in the right direction. If one or more of these valves doesn’t open or close properly, the blood flow gets disrupted. Some people may not experience symptoms for years. Signs and symptoms may include:

• Abnormal sounds (heart murmurs)

• Fatigue and fainting

• Swelling of ankles or feet

• Shortness of breath

• Irregular heart beats

Peripheral vascular disease. This is a common circulatory problem in which the narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs, usually your legs. This can cause leg pain when walking. This disease is also a sign for a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits or plaque. This disease is often treated by exercising and eating a healthier diet.

When to see a doctor

If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, call 911 immediately or your local emergency number. If you do not have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital.

If you have risk factors for coronary artery disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, diabetes or family history of heart disease, talk with your doctor. If you have signs or symptoms, your doctor may want to have you tested.

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A catheterization laboratory, or cath lab, is a procedural hospital room where minimally invasive tests and procedures are performed to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease.