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Diagnosis & Treatment for Blocked Arteries

Our interventional cardiologists use evidence-based diagnostic procedures and techniques to assess blood circulation and look for narrowed or blocked vessels.

Depending on the results of these tests and scans, your doctor may recommend an interventional procedure or other therapies to open these blocked arteries and restore normal blood flow.

Diagnostic Procedures to Detect Blocked Arteries

During cardiac catheterization, our specialists use special tools to look for blocked arteries and, when necessary, perform procedures to restore healthy blood flow.

Coronary Angiogram

Coronary angiography, also known as a coronary angiogram, is a diagnostic test to look for blocked arteries or structural problems in the heart, such as valve disease. This is often done in response to symptoms such as chest pain or abnormal stress test results. During an angiogram, your doctor uses a catheter to introduce a dye into the bloodstream. An X-ray machine detects the dye and creates a series of images that allow your doctor to look for blockages or other abnormalities.

Doctors may also perform an angiogram to identify narrowed or blocked arteries in the leg, leading to lower extremity peripheral artery disease, also known as lower extremity arterial disease.

Other Diagnostic Tests to Detect Heart Disease

Doctors in our cardiac catheterization laboratory may also use the following diagnostic tests to detect other forms of heart disease:

  • Right heart catheterization can diagnose high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries using a catheter passed through an artery on the right side of the heart.
  • Hemodynamic assessment is a procedure that checks blood flow and heart function and helps diagnose valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, and congenital heart disease, also known as a cardiac shunt.
  • Physiological testing uses specialized wires to measure blood pressure and blood flow across a blockage which can help determine if it needs to be treated.
  • Intravascular imaging, including intravascular ultrasound and optical coherence tomography, allows interventional cardiologists to look for narrowing or blockages of blood vessels and the extent of blockage, which can also help prepare for coronary artery stenting.

As soon as a diagnosis is made, our doctors discuss treatment options with you and begin the interventional procedure.

Interventional Procedures to Open Blocked Arteries

Our interventional cardiology team performs all procedures and techniques to open blocked arteries. We are also known for providing effective therapy for people with complex and complete blockages, including chronic total occlusion (CTO), and those who have been told they are not candidates for treatment at other catheterization laboratories.

Coronary Artery Stenting

Coronary artery stenting is a technique used to treat blocked arteries. During the stenting procedure, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention, a tiny incision is made in the wrist or groin, and then a thin catheter is inserted through the incision into the artery.  A balloon catheter is inflated at the location of the blockage, opening the artery and allowing blood to flow normally. This is followed by placement of a stent, which is a medicated, scaffold-like mesh tube that reduces the risk of the blockage recurring. Coronary stenting is also done in emergency situations such as a heart attack.

Complex Coronary Interventions

Our interventional cardiologists provide treatment for the most complex, high-risk blockages. This includes chronic total occlusion, or CTO, when arteries have been completely blocked for three months or longer, and complex coronary artery disease, meaning heart disease in people who have complex cases or high-risk factors.

We use the most-advanced tools and technology to treat challenging blockages, including atherectomy, which uses a small tool to cut through blockages; excimer laser coronary angioplasty, which uses laser mechanisms to break up plaque; and intravascular lithotripsy, which uses shock waves to treat the most-resistant blockages.

Alcohol Septal Ablation

Alcohol septal ablation is a catheter-based treatment for thinning the muscular wall between the heart’s left and right ventricles. This can help improve blood flow from the heart in people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes thickening of the walls of the heart’s main pumping chamber.

Peripheral Angioplasty, Atherectomy, and Stenting

Our doctors also use catheterization techniques to look for blockages in the peripheral arteries. These blood vessels provide blood flow outside the heart, such as in the legs, intestines, kidney, and neck.

The peripheral arteries bring blood to internal organs and extremities. When their blood flow is restricted, the loss of circulation causes pain, sores, and, in some cases, life-threatening conditions.
To treat these blockages, our doctors may use techniques such as peripheral angioplasty, where the arteries are stretched with an inflated balloon and a stent may be placed to keep the artery open. Atherectomy, which uses a small rotational tool, is another technique that may be used to remove calcified blockages that are difficult to remove using angioplasty.

These techniques are used to treat chronic high blood pressure caused by kidney blockages; erectile dysfunction caused by limited arterial blood flow; carotid artery disease that increases the risk of stroke; and lower extremity arterial disease, which limits circulation in the legs and increases the risk of gangrene, when tissue dies due to lack of oxygen and blood flow.

Structural Heart Procedures

Doctors in our Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory also perform structural heart procedures in partnership with cardiac surgeons at NYU Langone’s Transcatheter Heart Valve Program in Manhattan and on Long Island. We use catheterization techniques for aortic valve replacement and mitral valve repair and replacement, in which our doctors guide a new valve through a catheter to the heart without requiring open surgery.