Heart Programs - University of Minnesota Physicians Heart at Fairview

Interventional Cardiology

Every year, interventional cardiologists from University of Minnesota Physicians Heart diagnose and treat thousands of people with coronary artery disease from throughout Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Cardiologists use techniques such as angioplasty and stenting to open blocked arteries and restore blood flow to the heart without open heart surgery.

Our program was one of the first in the nation, in 1986, to use angioplasty to rapidly reopen heart arteries in patients having heart attacks. This procedure has since become standard therapy for heart attacks around the world.

Interventional cardiology services are offered at three Twin Cities locations – University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview; Fairview Southdale Hospital and Fairview Ridges Hospital. All three locations provide emergency care for people with heart attacks designed to save lives and reduce heart damage by minimizing the time it take to open blocked arteries. University of Minnesota and Southdale have been nationally recognized for the speed at which they open blocked arteries. Some of the more common techniques used at our facilities include:

Coronary angiography
Angiography is a diagnostic test used by cardiologists to check for blockages in the arteries leading to your heart. A dye is injected through the catheter and X-ray images are taken of your arteries. The blood vessels can be checked on a monitor. The angiogram is a map of what’s narrowed or blocked.

Balloon angioplasty
If there’s a narrowing in an artery that looks appropriate for repair, it is often repaired right at the moment. A catheter is inserted with a small balloon at the end of the tip. When inflated, the balloon presses on the fat and calcium deposits (plaque) in the artery wall, and that pressure opens the artery to improve blood flow. Then the balloon is deflated and removed with the catheter. The problem with balloon angioplasty is that sometimes the arteries will become blocked again.

Balloon angioplasty with stenting
Stenting was added to balloon angioplasty in the 1990s. A stent is a tiny, expandable mesh tube used to keep the artery open. The stent is usually made of an alloy of stainless steel or cobalt chromium. Delivered via a balloon catheter, the stent is permanent, and many are coated with medicine to prevent scar tissue from forming in the blood vessel.

Scientists currently are working on absorbable stents that will buttress the artery open, deliver their medicine and then once everything is healed, will slowly get absorbed by the body.

Angioplasty with stenting is most commonly recommended for patients who have one or a few blockages in the coronary arteries. If there are more than a few or if the blockages are located where stenting might be risky, coronary artery bypass graft surgery may be recommended. Cardiac catheterization is not considered a surgical procedure because there is no large incision to open the chest.

Over the last 40 years, our Interventional cardiologists have used a number of cardiac devices to treat patients with heart valve disease and congenital heart problems (such as, holes in the heart). Other services provided by interventional cardiology include:

  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (angioplasty)
  • Coronary stents
  • Rotational atherectomy
  • Thrombectomy (blood clot removal)
  • Intravascular ultrasound
  • Fractional flow reserve (FFR)
  • Valvuloplasty (dilation of heart valves)
  • Alcohol septal ablation for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Pulmonary hypertension diagnosis and vasodilator study
  • Heart biopsy
  • Temporary heart pump assist devices
  • Impella
  • Intra-aortic balloon pump
  • Emergency heart attack treatment
  • Emergency cardiac arrest treatment with hypothermia