Cardiac Catheterization

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Cardiac catheterization is a procedure performed by cardiologists to evaluate a patient’s heart condition. Prior to starting the procedure, your doctor will give you mild sedation with intravenous medications and some local sedation at catheter insertion site. During the procedure, your doctor inserts a catheter into a vein or artery in either the arm, neck, or groin. From there, it’s threaded through a blood vessel until it enters the heart or arteries of the heart.

Once properly in place, your physician can run a number of diagnostic tests to pinpoint the cause of chest pain or diagnose other heart problems. During cardiac catheterization, your doctor will be able to check for the following things:

  • Check for Narrowed or Blocked Blood Vessels
  • Detect Problems with Your Heart Valves
  • Measure Oxygen Levels in Your Heart
  • Measure Pressure in Your Heart
  • Perform Tissue Biopsies

Different Types of Cardiac Catheterization Procedures

Depending on your condition, there are a few cardiac catheterization procedures your doctor can choose from for you. They include:

  • Left Heart catheterization and Coronary Angiogram: During this procedure, your doctor will inject dye through the catheter and use an X-ray machine to observe the dye as it travels through the vessels, valves, arteries, and chambers of your heart. The dye makes it easier for your doctor to detect blockages or narrowed arteries. This is done either through the femoral artery in groin or radial artery in the wrist.
  • Right Heart Catheterization: During this procedure, your doctor will insert the catheter via the vein into right side of the heart. Usually, there is no contrast dye used during this procedure. This is done to check the pressures in your heart and lungs.

The following additional procedures can be done based on initial results of heart catheterization:

  • Balloon Angioplasty: During this procedure, a doctor inserts a small inflatable balloon into an artery to help widen a blocked or narrowed artery.
  • Coronary Stent: Sometimes a stent is used to open us a narrowed artery after balloon angioplasty is done.
  • Balloon Valvuloplasty: This procedure involves inserting a balloon-tipped catheter into narrowed heart valves to widen restricted spaces.
  • Thrombectomy: This is a blood clot treatment used during a heart attack. During the procedure, a doctor inserts a catheter to help remove blood clots.
  • Heart Biopsy: During this procedure, your doctor will collect a sample of your heart tissue for further testing.

Indications for Cardiac Catheterization

Some of the common reasons, your doctor will refer you for heart catheterization include

Risk of Cardiac Catheterization

Any type of medical procedure has its share of risks. Fortunately, cardiac catheterization is a low-risk procedure. However, individuals with kidney disease or diabetes have a higher risk of complications occurring. Some of these risks include:

  • Developing an Allergic Reaction to Dyes or Medications 
  • Infection, Bruising and Bleeding at catheter insertion site
  • Heart attack due to small plaque rupture during the procedure
  • Artery Damage 
  • Arrhythmias
  • Stroke
  • Kidney Damage from Dyes
  • Low Blood Pressure

Speak With Your Doctor

If you are experiencing chest pains or think you may have a heart condition, talk with your Cardiologist about your options and whether cardiac catheterization is right for you. He or she will go over everything the procedure involves, including the pros, cons, and risk factors, to better determine which cardiac catheterization procedure is best for your condition.