At Mercyhealth Heart and Vascular Centers, we choose minimally invasive heart surgery whenever possible. However, there are times when more complex procedures are required.
This is one of the most accurate and reliable tests available for measuring heart function and examining the structure of the heart, as well as blood supply to the heart muscle.
A cardiac catheterization involves inserting a small catheter into the arm or leg. The catheter is then placed at the opening of the coronary arteries and contrast fluid is injected to determine if blockage or plaque is present. The catheter is also used to sample blood, measure blood pressure within the heart and to image the pumping heart.
When blood vessels that supply the heart become narrowed or blocked by plaque buildup, the end result could be angina (pain), heart attack or death. Fortunately, the cardiologists in Mercyhealth’s cardiac catheterization laboratories can perform a coronary angioplasty that widens the passage of the affected vessel before permanent damage can occur.
A coronary angioplasty involves inserting a small balloon catheter into the clogged or narrowed vessel. Once in position, the balloon is inflated, compressing the plaque and allowing increased blood flow to the heart muscle.
Coronary atherectomy is an alternative method of clearing a clogged or narrowed vessel of plaque that is resistant to balloon angioplasty. In this case, a special burr-tipped device is placed at the site of blockage. The tool is used to grind or pulverize the plaque, removing it from the vessel and allowing increased blood flow to the heart muscle.
When balloon angioplasty alone is not enough to restore blood flow to the heart muscle, Mercyhealth’s cardiologists have the option of using coronary stents. The stent is a stainless steel wire mesh tube mounted on a balloon catheter. The catheter is placed at the site of the blockage and inflated. The balloon expands the stent and compresses the plaque against the wall of the vessel, thus improving blood flow to the heart muscle.
Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA)
This procedure is done to open blocked coronary arteries caused by coronary artery disease. It restores flow of blood through the arteries to the heart without open-heart surgery. The doctor uses a long, hollow tube (catheter) with a tiny balloon on its tip. The doctor inserts the catheter into the artery and inflates the balloon where the artery is blocked. The balloon flattens the fatty tissue in that area and opens up the artery for better blood flow.
Peripheral angioplasty is performed much like that of a PCTA described above, but to open blocked arteries or remove blood clots in the patient’s legs.
When balloon angioplasty alone is not enough to restore blood flow to the peripheral (leg) muscle, Mercyhealth’s cardiologists have the option of using peripheral stents. The stent is a stainless steel wire mesh tube mounted on a balloon catheter. The catheter is placed at the site of the blockage and inflated. The balloon expands the stent and compresses the plaque against the wall of the vessel, thus improving blood flow to the leg muscle.
A pacemaker is a battery-operated device that helps maintain a normal heart rhythm. It sends electrical signals to the heart to stimulate contracting or pumping of the heart muscle. It is designed specifically for patients who have irregular or very slow heart rates and symptoms of fainting or fatigue. The doctor sets the pacemaker’s rate. The pacemaker generator is placed under the skin of the chest wall, below the collarbone. It contains a battery and wires (leads) that are positioned inside the heart and transmit the signal from the battery to the heart, thus causing the contracting. For more information about pacemakers, read our Electrophysiology section.