Interventional Cardiology
Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is an intravascular procedure used to evaluate the coronary circulation, the heart valves, and the different chambers of the heart. A catheter is a long, narrow plastic tube that can be inserted into an artery or vein in the arm or leg. From there it can be advanced into the chambers of the heart or into the coronary arteries where a dye is injected to allow clear images of the areas to be taken for diagnostic purposes.

This procedure can determine if there is blockage in the coronary arteries and provide information about the heart valves and the pumping ability of the heart. The procedure measures pressure, oxygen levels in the blood, valve function, and how well the heart muscle is pumping. It also detects blockages in the heart’s arteries.

Our physicians performed the first outpatient cardiac catheterization in New England, and were among the first in the United States to perform angioplasty, insert stents, and complete rotational atherectomies.

Cardiac catheterization is used for therapeutic as well as diagnostic purposes. Interventional cardiology procedures include:

  • Angioplasty and stenting of coronary artery blockages
  • The closure of congenital heart defects, including atrial septal defects and patent foramen ovale that may cause stroke
  • Balloon valvuloplasty to treat stenotic heart valves
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for those who cannot have traditional valve replacement surgery

In addition, newer vascular procedures are being performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, including stenting of major peripheral arteries in the arms, legs, kidneys, abdominal aorta and carotid arteries. Carotid artery stenting is a non-surgical alternative to the more traditional surgical endarterectomy procedures. It is offered to selected patients with severe carotid artery stenoses as part of a multidisciplinary program involving vascular surgery and interventional radiology.

Our catheterization labs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to significantly reduce the amount of time between arrival in the emergency department and the start of angioplasty or stenting procedures. All reports and images are stored electronically to maximize reliability and access and minimize cost. Our lab also emphasizes communication. Within minutes of each procedure, detailed patient information is available to referring physicians.

The catheterization laboratories also actively participate in cutting-edge research, including the investigation of new stent designs, adjunctive pharmacologic therapies for heart attacks and acute coronary syndromes, and as part of a national trial of new therapies for improving the treatment of the most serious consequence of a heart attack—cardiogenic shock.

We are pioneers in the development of surgeries performed to diagnose and treat heart conditions and in many current day techniques, strategies and tools used to perform catheterizations. These advances have made the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease easier, safer, more accurate and more effective. We also specialize in the treatment of patients who arrive in the early stages of a heart attack and excel in the management of these acutely ill patients.