Cardiac Catheterization Procedure | MedStar Health

Leading advances in the study and repair of the heart and blood vessels

Image of heart surgeon performing a surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas. The experts in our Interventional Cardiology Program work out of multiple cardiac catheterization labs around the region that are staffed 24/7, meaning you can get treatment close to home.

We’re one of the region’s highest-volume centers for cardiac catheterizations, and our locations are typically among the first sites to evaluate new technology and techniques in this field. These procedures traditionally have been performed by threading the catheter through the groin, but our interventional cardiologists have been national leaders in adopting transradial catheterization, which uses an artery in the arm. In fact, about 80 percent of our cardiac catheterization procedures are now done this way.

The cath labs at two of our hospitals — MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Union Memorial Hospital — are hybrid labs, meaning they are fully equipped operating rooms. About 10 percent of patients who undergo cardiac catheterization need open-heart surgery. Thanks to these labs, if cardiac surgery becomes necessary, we won’t need to move you in the middle of a procedure. It also allows us to perform complex procedures that involve both cardiac catheterization and cardiac surgery.

These procedures allow us to:

  • Measure pressure and blood flow in the heart’s chambers and blood vessels
  • Open a narrowed or blocked blood vessel or heart valve
  • Perform a biopsy on the heart muscle
  • Repair or replace damaged blood vessels or heart valves


Some of the diagnostic tests we perform through catheterization include:

Cardiac catheterization also allows us to treat certain conditions. Because it doesn’t require surgery, you recover faster, with less pain and few complications. Depending on the procedure, you may be able to go home the same day.


Some of the more common treatments we perform include:



Balloon valvuloplasty

Cardiac ablation


Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)

Alcohol Septal Ablation

Alcohol septal ablation, also known as septal alcohol ablation, is a minimally invasive procedure our doctors use to treat hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The procedure shrinks abnormal tissue and improves blood flow throughout the body.

Aneurysm Surgery

Aneurysm surgery is used to repair bulges in blood vessels after they have ruptured or to prevent them from rupturing. Surgery may take several approaches: traditional open surgery, a minimally invasive endovascular method or a hybrid of the two.


Angioplasty improves blood flow through the arteries by clearing plaque buildup.

Anomalous Left Coronary Artery from the Pulmonary Artery Surgical Treatment

Several methods can be used to correct anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery (ALCAPA), in which the left coronary artery branches off from the pulmonary artery instead of the aorta.

Aortic Dissection Treatment

Treating an aortic dissection can include medication, minimally invasive procedures or open surgery.

Aortic Root Surgery

Aortic root surgery is a complex procedure used to treat damage to the aorta and the aortic valve caused by an aortic root aneurysm.

Aortic Surgery

Aortic surgery describes a variety of procedures to treat conditions that affect the aorta.

Aortic Valve Repair and Replacement

Aortic valve repair and replacement procedures include minimally invasive and traditional surgery as well as several types of replacement material.

Balloon Valvuloplasty

Balloon valvuloplasty improves blood flow through the heart to the lungs and body by opening a stiff heart valve.

Congenital Heart Disease Treatments

Treatments for congenital heart conditions range from atrial septal defect and patent foramen ovale closures to cardiac ablations and heart valve replacements to heart transplants.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

Coronary artery bypass surgery, also known as coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG), restores normal blood flow through narrowed or blocked coronary arteries by using a healthy blood vessel taken from your leg, arm or chest to create a detour around the problem area.

Coronary Artery Stenting

Coronary artery stents are small mesh tubes placed within the artery to prevent blockages and allow better blood flow.

Heart Surgery

Heart surgery is an option to treat many heart conditions. You may need heart surgery either as a lifesaving procedure or when other treatments haven’t worked.

Heart Surgery for Atrial Fibrillation (Maze)

A surgical maze procedure treats atrial fibrillation (AFib) by creating a pattern, or maze, of scar tissue in the heart to disrupt faulty electrical signals causing your abnormal heart rhythm.

Inotropic Therapy

Inotropic therapy is an IV medication that can relieve symptoms of heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.

Intracoronary Radiation Therapy

Intracoronary radiation therapy is an innovative treatment that uses radiation to prevent scar tissue buildup in the arteries after an angioplasty or stent placement.

Leadless Pacemakers

A leadless pacemaker is a small capsule placed in the heart’s right ventricle that delivers an electric pulse to regulate the heartbeat.

Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) helps the heart pump blood more effectively during end-stage heart failure.

Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery

Minimally invasive heart surgery is used whenever possible to reduce risks and shorten recovery time after surgery to treat a variety of conditions.


MitraClip is a device our doctors use to treat mitral insufficiency, also known as mitral regurgitation.

Mitral Valve Disease Treatments

Mitral valve disease treatments may include medication, minimally invasive procedures and surgery to treat a damaged valve.

Mitral Valvuloplasty

Mitral valvuloplasty improves blood flow through the heart to the lungs and body by opening a narrow or stiff heart valve.

Off-Pump Bypass Surgery (Beating-Heart Bypass)

Off-pump bypass surgery, also known as beating-heart bypass surgery, is an option for many patients to have coronary artery bypass surgery without needing to stop the heart or lungs during the procedure.

Patent Foramen Ovale and Atrial Septal Defects Treatments

Treatments for patent foramen ovales (PFO) and atrial septal defects (ASD) such as medication, closure devices and surgery, vary based on your symptoms and risk factors.

Percutaneous Valve Treatments

Percutaneous valve procedures use catheter-based methods to replace a damaged heart valve and are less invasive than traditional open-heart surgeries.

Pulmonary Valve Repair and Replacement

Pulmonary valve repair and replacement procedures include minimally invasive and traditional surgery as well as several types of replacement material.

Septal myectomy

Septal myectomy is a surgical procedure to remove overgrown heart muscle and improve blood flow through the heart.


Stenting uses a mesh tube to open narrow blood vessels and improve blood flow.

Structural Heart and Valve Disease Treatments

Structural heart and valve disease treatments address defects or abnormalities with the heart’s muscle or valves with or without surgery.

Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve Replacement (TPVR)

Transcatheter pulmonary valve replacement (TPVR) is a minimally invasive option to replace a damaged pulmonary valve that reduces blood flow from the heart to the lungs.

Transcatheter Tricuspid Valve Replacement

Transcatheter tricuspid valve replacement is a non-surgical procedure to replace a damaged tricuspid valve.

Transradial Catheterization

Transradial catheterization is a form of cardiac catheterization in which doctors use the radial artery, located in the wrist, to treat many heart and vascular conditions.

Valve Disease Treatments

Valve disease treatments include monitoring, medication or surgery to repair or replace a damaged valve.

Valve Sparing or Valve Preserving Surgery (Reimplantation Surgery)

Valve sparing surgery is a procedure to repair an aortic root aneurysm without replacing the aortic valve.

Additional information

Interventional Cardiology Program

We have one of the highest volume heart catheterization programs in the mid-Atlantic region, averaging nearly 12,000 procedures annually.


Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

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