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Cardiac Procedures

These procedures are used to evaluate and treat heart and blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease). Talk with your doctor or heart care provider for more specific information.

Procedures for abnormal heart rhythms

  • Catheter ablation. This procedure uses radio waves or freezing to silence an abnormal area in the heart electrical system. The abnormal area is often found during an electrophysiology study. This procedure can break a problematic electrical circuit that is causing an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

  • Permanent pacemaker. A permanent pacemaker is inserted into the upper chest and connected to the heart. It provides a reliable heartbeat when the heart's own rhythm is too slow or irregular.

  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). A defibrillator wire is inserted into the heart and connected to an implanted device in the chest. It sends out a small amount of electricity when needed to jolt the heart rhythm back to normal. This can be life-saving when life-threatening rhythms are found.

Procedures for heart disease

  • Cardiac catheterization. A thin tube (catheter) is placed into the heart through a blood vessel in the leg or arm. Then a contrast agent is injected and X-rays are taken. This is done to find the narrowing, blockages, and other abnormalities of certain arteries .

  • Coronary angioplasty. A balloon-tipped catheter is used to expand a narrowing in the blood vessel. This is done to increase blood flow. Angioplasty is done in other blood vessels in other parts of the body. But percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) refers to angioplasty in the coronary arteries to let more blood flow into the heart muscle. PCI is also called percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). There are several types of PCI procedures, including:

    • Balloon angioplasty. A small balloon is inflated inside the blocked artery to re-establish blood flow. This is often done together with a tiny mesh coil (stent) placement.

    • Coronary artery stent. A tiny mesh coil is expanded inside the blocked artery to open the blocked area. It is left in place to keep the artery open.

    • Atherectomy. The blocked area inside the artery is shaved away by a tiny device on the end of a catheter.

    • Laser angioplasty. A laser is used to help remove the blockage in the artery.

  • Coronary artery bypass. This is often called bypass surgery. It is often done in people who have chest pain (angina) and plaque buildup in the arteries (coronary artery disease) . During the surgery, the blocked artery is bypassed. This is done using a piece of another healthy blood vessel from another part of the body. The healthy blood vessel is attached above and below the blocked area of a coronary artery. This lets blood flow around the blockage. Veins are often taken from the leg. Arteries from the chest or arm may also be used to create a bypass graft. Sometimes many bypasses may be needed to restore blood flow to all areas of the heart.

  • Intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP). This is a device to help your heart pump blood. It consists of a thin, flexible tube (catheter) with a long balloon at its tip (intra-aortic balloon). At the other end, the catheter attaches to a computer. The balloon is inflated and deflated. An IABP lets blood flow more easily into your coronary arteries . This helps give oxygen to the heart muscle. It also lets your heart pump more blood with each contraction.

  • Ventricular assist device (VAD). A VAD is a mechanical device used to help the pumping function for one or both of the heart's pumping chambers (ventricles). It may be needed when heart failure gets to the point that medicines and other treatments no longer work. A VAD can help someone's heart work when they are waiting for a heart transplant. Or when someone is waiting to see if they are a candidate for a transplant. A VAD can also be a permanent treatment. And it can help a person's heart recover after surgery.

  • Heart transplant. This surgery is for certain people whose hearts are so severely damaged that medicines, procedures, and surgical repair can't help. A donated heart is transplanted into the person to replace the damaged heart.

Procedures for valve disease

  • Valvuloplasty. In this procedure, a balloon-tipped catheter is used to open a narrowed heart valve. The catheter is guided through the aorta to the aortic valve. Once in place within the leaflet, the balloon is inflated until the leaflets are loosened. The balloon is then deflated and removed from the body. This procedure may also be done on the mitral valve.

  • Valve repair. Surgery to fix a damaged valve by loosening stiff valve leaflets or tightening loose valve leaflets.

  • Valve replacement. In this procedure, a mechanical or tissue valve is transplanted into the heart to replace the damaged valve. Often this is done during open heart surgery. For some people with aortic stenosis, a new valve may be placed within the old valve and opened up to ease the stenosis. This is called TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement). It does not require open heart surgery.

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise A. Cunningham, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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