Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac CatheterizationDuring a cardiac catheterization, interventional cardiologists thread a thin catheter through blood vessels and into the coronary arteries. Using X-rays, they look for signs of heart disease and determine the size and location of fat and calcium deposits that may narrow the openings in the arteries. If a blockage is discovered, the doctor may perform an angioplasty using tiny balloons and stents to open blocked vessels and restore blood flow to the heart.

Cardiac Catheterization Treatments:

  • Transradial Cardiac Catheterization (through the wrist)
    GW Hospital is one of a few hospitals in the area to offer this alternate approach that has a lower risk of bleed complications and is generally more comfortable for the patient.
    Learn more about Transradial Cardiac Catheterization >
  • Angioplasty/Percutaneous Intervention
    This is a less invasive treatment option that can be performed for those with coronary artery disease in the cath lab. Instead of open-heart surgery, angioplasty uses a thin catheter inserted through the patient's groin or arm to open the blocked coronary artery. This is accomplished by inflating a balloon at the end of the catheter once it reaches the artery, and its inflation pushes the plaque to the walls of the artery, creating more room for the blood to flow. During an angioplasty, a device called a stent may be permanently placed in the artery to keep it open. The stent is a small, expandable wire that contains the balloon used to inflate the artery. When the balloon is opened, the mesh-like stent is pushed to the artery walls and the cells lining the blood vessel grow through the structure holding it in place. This procedure thus enables the artery to remain open well after the balloon is deflated and removed. Also, this is successful in preventing restenosis (the renarrowing of the arteries) and prevents pieces of the wall from breaking off. New drug-coated stents emit medication to the site, preventing restenosis.
  • Atherectomy
    Similar to angioplasty, this surgical procedure uses a laser beam or a whirling blade to cut the plaque build-up on the artery wall. This increases blood flow in narrowed arteries and stents also may be implanted during this procedure.
  • Thrombectomy / Thrombolysis
    The most effective procedure to treat deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a catheter-directed thrombolysis is performed under imaging guidance by interventional radiologists. DVT is a blood clot commonly found in the lower leg, thigh or deep veins of the pelvis. The clot may travel through the blood stream and potentially lodge in the brain, lungs, heart or other area, causing severe damage.
    Learn more about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) >

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive procedure for high-risk patients with aortic stenosis who are not candidates for traditional aortic valve surgery. TAVR is a catheter delivered aortic heart valve replacement. Learn more about TAVR >

Intracoronary Ultrasound

This procedure uses high frequency sound waves, or ultrasound, to evaluate the heart and determine different treatment needs. A miniature sound probe (transducer) is placed on the tip of a catheter and threaded through the coronary arteries to the heart where it emits sound waves to create the images.

Endomyocardial biopsy

Used mainly to diagnosis cardiomyopathy, this test involves cutting or scraping a small piece of heart tissue in order to examine the sample closely and detect any abnormalities.

Evaluation of Pulmonary Hypertension

Elevated pressures in the pulmonary arteries can be caused by a variety of conditions. In some patients, shortness of breath can be debilitating. While there are several treatment options, some options are best evaluated by testing response to medication during a right heart catheterization performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. These tests help the pulmonologists optimize patient treatment.

Advanced Devices

The following devices are implanted in the cardiac catheterization laboratory:

Cardiac-Assist Device
The Abiomed Impella cardiac assist device (the world's smallest ventricle heart pump) provides partial circulatory support for up to six hours in critically ill patients. The device is inserted through the femoral artery in the groin area and with the help of a guide wire is advanced into the left ventricle.

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) Closure
An atrial septal defect is an abnormal opening in the wall (septum) that divides the two upper chambers of the heart (atria). Individuals with ASD are at an increased risk for developing a number of complications including:

  • Atrial fibrillation (in adults)
  • Heart failure
  • Pulmonary overcirculation
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Stroke

If the defect is small and symptomatic, patients may not need treatment. However for larger ASD openings, when the heart is enlarged or patients are experiencing symptoms, treatment may be recommended. At GW Hospital, physicians implant an atrial septal device to correct this abnormal opening. This is done in the catheterization laboratory and involves placing an ASD closure device into the heart through tubes called catheters to seal off the opening. Patients will typically go home the same day as the procedure.

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Designated STEMI Center
We’re Saving Time So We Can Save Lives

During a heart attack, every minute counts. The George Washington University Hospital offers 24-hour interventional cardiology coverage, making it one of only three hospitals in Washington D.C. that has been designated for EMS transport of patients with a type of suspected heart attack known as a STEMI (ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction).

GW Hospital’s catheterization door-to-balloon times (the time it takes for a cardiac patient to proceed from hospital entrance to catheterization procedure) averages 68 minutes* and 87 percent of our patients are treated in less than 90 minutes*, better than the American College of Cardiology benchmark of 75 percent cardiac patients with a door-to-balloon target of 90 minutes or less.

*Average based on 2012 statistics.

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Jonathan Reiner, MD

Dr Reiner

Director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory
Read Bio >

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Shawn Howell, MD

Interventional Cardiologist
Read Bio >

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The George Washington University Hospital is owned and operated by a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc.(UHS), a King of Prussia, PA-based company, that is one of the largest healthcare management companies in the nation.          

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Washington, DC 20037

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