Interventional Cardiology

An interventional procedure is one that doesn’t use surgery. Instead, doctors treat your condition percutaneously—through a needle puncture of your skin. To perform an interventional cardiology treatment, your doctor will guide a thin flexible tube called a catheter through a vein or artery in your arm or leg to your heart.

If you qualify for these least-invasive catheterization procedures, you’ll benefit from less pain and blood loss, a lowered risk of infection and faster recovery time compared with surgery.

Leaders in Least-Invasive Heart Treatments

When you choose UNC for your heart care, you have access to emerging interventional cardiology techniques. That’s because we don’t just perform these advanced treatments, we help develop them. Our doctors’ research has been recognized by organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American College Cardiology and the National Institutes of Health.

Current studies include treatments for blockages in the renal arteries and for cardiomyopathy.

Learn more about the benefits of participating in clinical trials at UNC Medical Center.

Angioplasty and Stent Placement (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention)

This procedure uses a tiny medical balloon to open a narrow or blocked artery in your heart and places a small mesh tube, called a stent, in the blood vessel to keep it open. The procedure may be used to treat or prevent a heart attack or to treat angina—persistent chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to your heart. PCI may help you avoid the need for a more invasive procedure, like coronary artery bypass surgery.

About six hours after your procedure, you’ll be able to walk around. The average hospital stay for an angioplasty is two days or less; you may even be able to return home the same day as your procedure. Read more.


Using a needle to drain excess fluid from the pericardium—the lining that surrounds your heart—pericardiocentesis helps relieve pressure on your heart and may help you avoid the need for a more invasive procedure.

You’ll benefit from UNC’s innovative approach to pericardiocentesis: We’re one of the only hospitals in the country to use ultrasound guidance instead of X-rays. This means:

  • Your medical team works from more accurate images
  • Your medical team can drain fluid from multiple areas, rather than just one spot
  • The procedure can be done at your bedside instead of in a procedure room
  • You avoid exposure to radiation
  • You may be in the hospital for one day to several days, depending on the amount of fluid that needs to be drained. Read more.


Valvuoplasty uses a medical balloon to open a narrowed or blocked valve in your heart. It can be used to treat each of the heart’s four valves—aortic, pulmonary, tricuspid and mitral—and may be used as an alternative to surgery after medications have proven ineffective.

As an adult, you'll get this procedure under a local anesthetic. Children receive both general and local anesthesia. After the procedure, you'll stay in the hospital for a short length of time that will be determined by your physician. Read more.

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

With this new TAVR technology, physicians use a tiny medical balloon to open a narrowed artery in the heart and place a new valve inside your aortic valve. The procedure may be used as an alternative to open heart surgery for people with aortic stenosis.

You can expect to stay in the hospital for three to five days after this procedure. Read more.

Alcohol Septal Ablation

If you have hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM), alcohol septal ablation may offer an alternative to medications or surgery. In this advanced interventional procedure, a special type of alcohol is injected into one of the blood vessels that supplies blood to a thickened area of your heart. This blocks blood flow to the area, causing unnecessary cells in that area to die and shrink so previously blocked blood flow can return to normal.

UNC Medical Center is one of the only hospitals in the country to use this least-invasive procedure to treat cardiomyopathy.

You can expect to stay in the hospital for three to five days after this procedure. Read more.

Repairing Holes Caused by Congenital Heart Defects

If you or your child has an atrial septal defect—a heart defect present at birth that results in a hole between the upper chambers of the heart—our physicians may be able to repair the condition with a minimally invasive surgery. If you or your child are a candidates for this procedure, a closure device will be threaded through a catheter into the femoral artery, requiring only a small incision in the upper leg.

You’ll enjoy a recovery time of less than 24 hours and be able to resume normal activities within a week.

This procedure may also be used to treat Patient Foramen Ovale (PFO), a small hole between the upper chambers of the heart that normally closes within the first two years after birth. While the closure can be performed safely in almost all cases, the use of close devices to treat PTO is considered “off-label,” meaning the devices haven’t been approved by the FDA for this particular use. A thorough evaluation by a qualified cardiologist is necessary to determine if this is the best treatment for your specific situation. Read more.

Contact Us

Call the Heart & Vascular Center referral line at 866-862-4327 to find specialists, make an appointment or learn more about preventing heart disease.

Open Access is a new physician referral service, created by the UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care, which coordinates all admissions and transfers through a single phone call and guarantees immediate acceptance for patients. Please contact us to learn more or call 866-862-4327.

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