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An Overview of Cardiac Catheterization

A cardiac catheterization (also called a cardiac or heart cath) is a medical procedure that Phoenix cardiologists use to diagnose and treat certain heart conditions. This test employs a thin, flexible tube called a catheter that is put into your groin or neck and threaded to your heart. The catheter allows the doctor to perform certain diagnostic tests and treatments on your heart.

Coronary Artery Disease

Plaque is a waxy substance that can build up inside your coronary arteries. This substance narrows the vessels and blocks the arteries. When this occurs, there is a restriction of blood flow to your heart muscle (the myocardium).

When this happens, you are at increased risk for a heart attack. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the condition where there is a buildup of plaque in the heart arteries.

Why the Test is Done

Cardiologists perform cardiac catheterization for a variety of reasons. These include:

  • Assess for the Cause of Chest Pain – The most common reason is to assess for the cause of chest pain (often called angina). Chest pain is an indication of CAD and blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.
  • Widen Narrowed Arteries – During the heart cath, the doctor can perform a procedure called angioplasty. This is done to open the narrowed coronary artery or arteries. A catheter with a balloon is threaded into the blocked vessel. Once in position, the balloon is inflated so it will push against the artery wall to open the vessel.
  • Stent Placement – Sometimes, the doctor must place a stent in the artery to hold it open. A stent is a tiny mesh tube that provides support to the inner artery wall.
  • Heart Attack Treatment – When someone has a heart attack, there is usually narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. The heart cath is often used as an emergency procedure to treat heart attack.
  • Establish a Treatment Plan – The cardiologist in Arizona often uses the cardiac cath to figure out which treatment plan is best for you.
  • Check for Heart Defect – When the doctor suspects that you have a heart defect, this procedure shows the overall size and shape of your heart, as well as the four chambers. This inside view of your heart allows him to detect certain heart defects.
  • Assess Valve Function – Valves are structures that open and shut to allow blood flow between your arteries and heart chambers. The cardiac cath can help the doctor see how well these structures function.
  • Measure Blood Flow and Oxygen Levels – The heart cath is useful to measure the flow of blood and oxygen saturation (O2 Sat).

Before the Test

Before you undergo a cardiac catheterization, there are some things you should discuss with your doctor. These include:

  • Medications – Tell the heart doctor about all your medicines and ask whether you should stop taking them or not.
  • Special Preparation – Discuss the preparation measures you need to know about before the cardiac cath.
  • Health Status – It is important that your cardiologist is aware of all medical conditions that you have, such as diabetes or kidney disease.

During the Test

Cardiac catheterization is done at a hospital. During this procedure, you will lie on your back while awake. You will be given some medicine to help you relax. The doctor will numb the area where the catheter is inserted. A needle is used to make a tiny hole in the vessel. The tapered catheter is inserted and guided to your heart through your blood vessel.

Special x-ray movies are taken as the catheter moves into the heart. The Arizona cardiologist uses this finding to decide whether to do stenting or angioplasty. After the procedure, you are moved to a post-procedure care area to rest overnight. Expect to have a small bruise at the catheter insertion site for a few days. The nurse will apply pressure to this site to stop bleeding and check it regularly.

Risks of the Cardiac Cath

There are some risks associated with this procedure. Talk to your doctor concerning the complications and risks prior to undergoing a cardiac cath. These include:

  • Infection – This causes pain, swelling, and redness at the insertion site.
  • Blood Vessel Damage – Rarely, the catheter scrapes a hole in the blood vessel.
  • Allergic Reaction – Contrast agent used during coronary angiography can cause itching, swelling, and trouble breathing.
  • Excessive Bleeding – A rare complication is trouble getting the site to stop bleeding.
  • Arrhythmias – Irregular heartbeats can occur with this procedure.
  • Low Blood Pressure – Occasionally, the sedation medication can cause your blood pressure to drop too low.

AZ Heart Doctor is the premier Phoenix cardiology group with offices in both Mesa and Tempe. Most insurance is accepted. Dr. Batres is a Double Board Certified Arizona cardiologist who offers comprehensive noninterventional services.

Simply call (480) 300-4646 today!


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