Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure in which a long, thin tube is inserted in an artery or vein in the arm or groin and threaded to the heart. A physician can then perform diagnostic tests to assess how open the arteries to the heart are and how well the heart is working. The physician can also insert balloons and/or stents if a blockage is present.
Percutaneous Coronary Interventions (PCI)
Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA)
PTCA is a procedure in which a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted into a narrowed artery of the heart. The balloon is inflated, which pushes the plaque to the sides of the vessel walls and opens the artery for blood flow. The balloon is then deflated and removed.
When a coronary artery has a significant blockage, it may require more than PTCA to open the vessel for blood flow. In these cases, placing a stent may be the best option. A stent is a small, mesh-like metal tube that is inserted into the narrowed artery on a balloon-tipped catheter. When the balloon is inflated, the stent expands and presses against the vessel walls. The balloon is deflated and removed, while the stent remains permanently. Some stents, called “drug-eluting stents,” also have medication in them to help keep the artery open.
Directional Coronary Atherectomy (DCA)
In this type of procedure, the heart artery blockage is removed using a small, mechanically driven catheter that is inserted into the artery to shave and remove the blockage from the artery wall.