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Invasive Cardiology

Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization

Diagnostic cardiac catheterization is the process of introducing hollow plastic tubes 2 to 3 mm in diameter called catheters into veins and/or arteries in the neck, leg, or arm while the patient is under local anesthesia. The catheters are advanced to the right and/or left sides of the heart. Once the catheters are positioned in the various heart chambers or blood vessels, the pressure of the blood in various chambers of the heart can be measured, blood samples can be taken and radiographic contrast material or dye can be injected (angiography) to allow x-ray visualization. This is necessary because the heart and blood vessels cannot be visualized by x-ray unless a contrast dye is introduced.

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Percutaneous Coronary Intervention

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) encompasses a variety of procedures used to treat patients with diseased arteries of the heart including chest pain caused by a build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances from the blood (referred to as plaque) that can reduce blood flow to a near trickle, or lead to a heart attack caused by a large blood clot that completely blocks the artery.
Typically, PCI is performed by threading a slender balloon-tipped tube – a catheter – from an artery in the groin to a trouble spot in an artery of the heart (this is referred to as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty – also known as PTCA, coronary artery balloon dilation or balloon angioplasty). The balloon is then inflated, compressing the plaque and dilating (widening) the narrowed coronary artery so that blood can flow more easily. This is often accompanied by inserting an expandable metal stent. Stents are wire mesh tubes used to prop open arteries after PTCA.

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