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Published on October 04, 2013

When to Consider Interventional Cardiology

Surgery is a great way for doctors to get to the heart of a problem. But in some situations, it’s not always necessary.

When it comes to matters of the heart, interventional cardiology is the ideal alternative to invasive surgical procedures. With the help of Xray guidance, doctors can access the heart by inserting catheters and wires through arteries in the wrist to fix a variety of issues, from blockages in coronary arteries to holes in the heart wall.

“These procedures have been around for a while, but continued refinements have led to better techniques and equipment and therefore, better results,” says Scott Midwall, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Crozer-Keystone Health System. “It can be just as effective as surgery with significantly less recovery time.”

And there are a variety of cardiovascular conditions that can be treated this way. The most common ones include heart attacks, severe chest pain (angina) related to coronary heart disease, and other conditions that might affect a person’s quality of life. It can also be used to treat or replace problematic heart valves, prevent stroke, fix aneurysms, and even insert pacemakers.

So when is interventional cardiology preferable to surgery?

During emergency situations, patients need immediate treatment. “When it comes to treating certain heart attacks, interventional cardiology is the gold standard, since it can be done quickly and effectively,” Midwall says. When a heart attack occurs from a blockage in an artery, for example, balloon angioplasty might be performed to restore normal blood flow.

It’s also often more desirable than open-heart surgery since general anesthesia is not required and a patient doesn’t need to spend multiple days in the hospital. The risks are reasonably low and patients can typically leave the next day. “Basically, most people would prefer not to have major surgery,” Midwall says. “Outcomes are comparable to surgery, but better in terms of other factors, such as these.”

Additionally, interventional cardiology is a great option for patients who are deemed too “high risk” for surgery, which often occurs when age is a concern or if they have an illness that would put them at great risk during surgery.

Patients who receive heart therapy in this way are also at a lower risk of infection and can even avoid unpleasant pain and scars that result from surgery.

To learn more about interventional cardiology, be sure to speak with your doctor to see if this is the best approach for you.

Learn more about Crozer-Keystone’s cardiology services by visiting http://www.crozerkeystone.org/services/heart/. Call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) for a referral to a CKHS cardiologist who’s right for you.

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