Interventional Cardiology

Interventional cardiologists near you at UNC Medical Center treat a heart condition not through traditional surgery, but by inserting tiny medical tools into a blood vessel in your wrist or upper thigh and threading them up to your heart. With this minimally invasive procedure, you may experience less pain and a faster recovery than after surgery – especially because we almost always insert the tools through your wrist. In some cases, you may even return home the same day.

Sophisticated Techniques

UNC Medical Center gives you access to the newest interventional cardiology techniques – including advanced treatments our top doctors helped develop. Our physicians’ research has earned recognition from organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and the National Institutes of Health.

Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization (Angiogram)

Cardiac catheterization (cardiac cath) shows where your heart arteries may be blocked, especially when you experience chest pain (angina) or symptoms of a heart attack. During the test, also called a coronary angiogram, a doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into your blood vessels. You’ll also receive an injection of contrast dye to make your blood vessels show up on a real-time X-ray image.

Cardiac Cath Lab

At UNC Medical Center, you’ll receive care in a cardiac catheterization lab and benefit from:

  • Twelve dedicated pre- and post-procedure rooms near the labs
  • Electronic scheduling and other measures to increase efficiency and decrease your wait time
  • FlexVision screens in every lab that give your physician easy, immediate, simultaneous access to more than 20 sources of information
  • Automated communications throughout the area that allow nurses to easily monitor your activity and vital signs
  • Advanced imaging technology, including X-ray systems that use lower-dose settings to reduce your radiation exposure by up 80 percent

You’ll find a heart catheterization suite for children at N.C. Children’s Hospital.

Fractional Flow Reserve

During cardiac catheterization, your doctor may also perform fractional flow reserve to measure the pressure on the sides of a blockage and help determine whether you need treatment. You won’t find this option at many other medical institutions in North Carolina.

Intravascular Ultrasound

Your physician may get a more detailed picture of the inside of your artery walls with intravascular ultrasound, which threads a tiny sound probe into the blood vessels.

Chronic Total Occlusions

Visit UNC Medical Center – one of the only places in the country that uses minimally invasive techniques to clear chronic total occlusions – for procedures to treat complete artery blockages that have lasted at least three months.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention

If cardiac catheterization shows arteries blocked by plaque, your doctor can treat them using percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also called balloon angioplasty and stenting. During this procedure, the physician threads a tiny balloon up to the blockage and inflates the balloon to push the plaque against the artery walls. Then, the doctor places a stent to keep the artery open and allow blood to flow through normally.

You may receive PCI to treat or prevent a heart attack. As a preventive measure, the procedure offers an alternative to coronary artery bypass surgery.

Recognized for Excellence

You can trust us for timely, high-quality PCI care 24/7 every day of the year because UNC Medical Center is accredited as a Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

UNC Medical Center also earned a 2015 Mission: Lifeline Gold Plus Receiving award from the American Heart Association. This means that during a heart attack, you can expect prompt care based on the association’s latest scientific guidelines.


Before PCI, your doctor may perform an atherectomy to shave excess calcium off your blood vessel walls.

Alcohol Septal Ablation

If you’re diagnosed with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy – blocked blood flow due to thickened heart muscle – you may benefit from alcohol septal ablation. In this treatment, a doctor injects alcohol into a blood vessel that carries the alcohol to the thickened area and shrinks it. Then, blood flow can return to normal.

Atrial Septal Defect & Patent Foramen Ovale Repair

Your cardiologist may determine you’re a candidate for minimally invasive repair of an atrial septal defect or patent foramen ovale – a hole between the heart’s upper chambers. During this treatment, a doctor threads a closure device through a catheter and up to your heart. Afterward, you’ll likely need less than 24 hours to recover and a week to resume normal activities.

The FDA hasn’t approved the closure device for patent foramen ovale, so its use is considered off-label. Your physician can close a patent foramen ovale safely in almost all cases.


Sometimes, conditions such as cancer or kidney disease can create a fluid buildup in the lining (pericardium) that protects your heart in the chest wall. This fluid puts pressure on your heart and makes it harder to beat normally. Your doctor can use a minimally invasive procedure to insert a drain and let the fluid flow out. For your convenience, we can place the drain at the best spot by using precise ultrasound guidance right at your bedside.

Heart Valve Treatments

If you have a narrowed or blocked heart valve, learn how a structural heart procedure such as valvuloplasty or transcatheter aortic valve replacement may provide relief.

Cardiac Services Care Card

Expect to receive a Cardiac Services Care Card [PDF] that tells how long your procedure might take and gives instructions for family members who may need to leave the waiting room.

Contact Us

Call the Heart & Vascular Center referral line at 984-974-2900 to find specialists, make an appointment or learn more about preventing heart disease.

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