Over 1 million cardiac catheterizations are performed yearly.
The test can check several things including, blood flow in the coronary arteries, blood pressure in the chambers of the heart, how well the heart valves work and check for defects in the heart.
In children, a cardiac catheterization is used to check for heart problems that more than likely have been present since birth (congenital heart disease).
Cardiac Catheterization Procedure
A cardiac catheterization uses a long thin “catheter” tube, which is inserted into one of a few different places including the neck, arm, or groin, and is threaded through your blood vessels up to your heart, where doctors can perform diagnostic tests or treat issues in the heart.
During a cardiac catheterization, a coronary angiogram test can be performed which checks the coronary arteries. An individual can be awake during this procedure with medication to help you relax. There is a low risk of complications.
Usually, you’ll be awake during cardiac catheterization, but given medications to help you relax. You are awake in order to follow various instructions they may give you during the procedure such as coughing, taking a deep breath, or place your arms in various positions. Recovery time for a cardiac catheterization is overall quick, although you may need an hour or two for the amnesia to wear off, and a few resting hours after that. Overall, there’s a low risk of complications.
Cardiac catheterization can be used in preventative measures to make sure your heart is functioning properly, or it can also be used in interventional procedures to correct a problem the doctor already knows about.
Cardiac Catheterization | Accompanying Heart Procedures
- Angioplasty With Or Without Stent – At the end of the catheter, a tiny balloon expands at the point of the narrowed artery to help widen it and unclog the plaque build up. If a stent is used, then the stent (or a small metal coil) is put in the area of the clogged artery to keep it propped open.
- Closure Of Holes In The Heart And Fixing Other Congenital Defects – A catheter can be threaded to the areas of holes in the heart and can be used to close it, acting similarly to a plug. This can be an alternative to having open-heart surgery. Narrow vessels in the heart can also be expanded through the balloon at the end of the catheter expanding the vessel and then a stent is inserted to keep it open.
- Replace Or Repair Heart Valves – Doctors may sometimes use a cardiac catheterization to replace or repair leaking heart valves.
- Balloon Valvuloplasty – This is the balloon at the tip of a catheter, which can be inflated within a heart valve to help open the narrowed passage.
- Heart Arrhythmia Treatment (Ablation) – Ablation treats heart rhythm problems. From the tip of a catheter, heat or extreme cold can be applied to abnormal heart tissue, which helps reverse the heart rhythm disorder.
- Prevent Blood Clots Through Closing Off Part Of Your Heart – A cardiac catheter can also be used to close off part of the heart chamber called, the left atrial appendage. This area is prone to getting blood clots when the heart rhythms are irregular, such as atrial fibrillation. Closing it off is another alternative to taking blood thinners.
Preparing For A Cardiac Catheterization
- Tell your doctor if you are allergic to iodine, which can be found in the dye used in the contrast material, or if you are allergic to talc or latex which could also be used during the procedure.
- If you are pregnant or might be pregnant.
- Specify which vitamins or supplements you take as this could attribute to excessive bleeding.
- Let your doctor know if you are on blood-thinning medicine.
- Have kidney disease as the contrast material may cause kidney disease in those who have poor kidney function.
Cardiac Catheterization Risks
- Tenderness and bruising at the point of the catheter insertion.
- Irritation of the vein where the catheter was inserted, can be treated with a warm compress.
- Bleeding at the catheter site.
- Trouble urinating after the procedure.
- Some more serious risks include stroke, excessive bleeding, blood clots and heart attack.
The results can oftentimes be given immediately following the test, where the doctor can report on the health of your arteries, if the heart is pumping properly, and if your blood pressure is in the normal range.
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