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Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a common, relatively painless, nonsurgical procedure that can help your doctor diagnose a heart problem. In some cases, catheterization can be used to treat heart disease, as well. To perform the procedure, your cardiologist ins

What Is Cardiac Catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is a common, relatively painless, nonsurgical procedure that can help your doctor diagnose a heart problem. In some cases, catheterization can be used to treat heart disease, as well. To perform the procedure, your cardiologist inserts a long, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel and gently guides it toward your heart. Once the catheter is in place, x-rays and other tests are done to help your doctor evaluate how well your heart is working.

Why Is Cardiac Catheterization Done:

You may have had shortness of breath, angina (pain or discomfort in the chest, arm, or jaw), dizziness, palpitations, or other symptoms of heart trouble. Or, your doctor may have found signs of heart problems during a physical exam. You've probably been through a number of tests already, such as a treadmill test, an echocardiogram, and perhaps a nuclear scan. The next step may be cardiac catheterization, which can help your doctor identify a heart problem more precisely.

Be Sure to Tell Your Doctor If:

  • If you were born with any heart problems.
  • How a Healthy Heart Works?

    To understand why cardiac catheterization may be needed to help diagnose a heart problem, first you need to know how a healthy heart works. Your heart pumps blood throughout your body. The coronary arteries supply the oxygen-rich blood your heart needs, while the heart's chambers and valves keep blood flowing in the proper direction.

    Diagnosing Heart Problems: Cardiac catheterization can be used to help identify artery, valve, or muscle problems. Your doctor uses the information gained during cardiac catheterization to decide if you need treatment and to plan the best course of action.

    Heart Valve Problems: Problems can occur if a heart valve doesn't open or shut completely. Cardiac catheterization can help your doctor take a closer look at your heart's valves to find out if they're working properly. Normal Valve With each beat of the heart, the valve opens to let blood into the next chamber. When the beat ends, the valve shuts to keep blood from flowing backward. The heart beats, and the valve opens. the valve shuts, Blood flows one way briefly stopping through the valve.

    Tests for Diagnosing Heart Problems:

    To determine if you have a heart problem, several tests may be performed during cardiac catheterization. These tests create pictures of your heart and measure your hearts blood flow and pressure. The test results give your doctor detailed information about your heart's condition. If a problem exists, this information can help you and your doctor decide on the best treatment for you.

    Treating Heart Problems:

    Cardiac catheterization may also be used to treat certain heart problems. Because the catheter can go inside the heart and coronary arteries without surgery, it may be used to administer nonsurgical treatments for blood clots and coronary artery disease.

    Preparing for Your Catheterization:

    Before your cardiac catheterization, your doctor explains the possible risks and benefits of the procedure. You'll also receive complete instructions on what to expect and what you need to do to be prepared. You can help prevent complications by following all of your doctor's instructions carefully. Don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have.

    Understanding the Risks:

    The risks of cardiac catheterization are fairly low. They are usually outweighed by the benefit of knowing the exact condition of your heart. Your doctor will discuss any risks and side effects with you. Then you'll be asked to sign a legal consent form. This gives your doctor permission to perform the procedure.

    Possible risks include:

    • Bleeding or clotting
    • Perforation of the heart muscle or blood vessel
    • Arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat)
    • Allergic reaction to the x-ray- sensitive liquid
    • Heart attack or stroke

    Before Your Procedure:

    The night before your catheterization, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight. You'll probably be admitted to the hospital on the day of the procedure. Before catheterization begins, you may be given med­ication to help you relax. The skin where the catheter will be inserted may be shaved. Then you'll be taken to the catheterization laboratory.

    During the Procedure:

    Cardiac catheterization usually takes an hour or less. The area where the catheter is inserted is numbed with a local anesthetic. You remain awake during the procedure, because your cooperation is needed from time to time.

    Inserting the Catheter:

    A local anesthetic is given by injection, so you won't feel pain at the insertion site. The most common insertion site is a blood vessel in your groin or arm. The injection feels like a bee sting and is probably the most uncomfortable part of the procedure. (Insertion site an introducing sheath is inserted into a blood vessel.) You may feel a little pressure when it is inserted, but this sensation should pass quickly.

    After Your Catheterization:

    After your catheterization, you'll need to remain lying down for 4 to 6 hours. If the catheter was inserted in your groin, you'll be asked not to move your leg to prevent bleeding. Most people have no pain after catheterization. Many patients go home from the hospital the same day, while others stay overnight.

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