Cardiac catheterization is a medical procedure that is used to diagnose and treat heart problems. Since its introduction in clinical application in the 1930s, it has become a staple of heart doctors in the fight against cardiovascular disorders.
What exactly does the cardiac catheterization process involve?
During cardiac catheterization, a thin guiding wire is introduced into a blood vessel in the wrist, arm, groin, or neck and then threaded through the blood vessels to the heart, guided by X-ray fluoroscopy. When it is in place, a thin, flexible, plastic tube called a catheter (or sheath) is threaded over the wire and into the heart; this catheter then acts as a conduit through which other medical tools or medications can be inserted directly into the heart.
Cardiac catheterization is primarily used as a diagnostic technique, to measure blood flow and pressure and oxygen levels in the heart’s chambers and in adjacent large arteries, to confirm the presence and severity of suspected heart ailments, to determine the cause of symptoms such as cardiac insufficiency or shortness of breath, to take blood and tissue samples for biopsy, to inject dyes used with X-ray visualization to measure blood flow, and to prepare patients for heart surgery. Cardiac catheterization can also be used as a treatment methodology, to repair certain types of heart defects, open narrowed heart valves, or to open blocked arteries using angioplasty or insert a stent to keep them open.
When is cardiac catheterization needed?
Your cardiologist heart doctors in Bergen County may recommend cardiac catheterization to diagnose suspected cardiac amyloidosis (buildups of an abnormal protein in the heart tissue), to investigate the causes of congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), or to treat coronary artery disease. It can also be used to check for heart defects present since birth, problems with the heart valves, and high blood pressure in the lungs. In practice, cardiac catheterization also often includes a coronary angiogram, to check the condition of the coronary arteries.
If this procedure is recommended by my doctor, what should I expect?
The procedure will be performed in a hospital by a team of cardiac surgeons and specialists. You will be awake during the procedure, but will receive medications to alleviate stress and help you relax. A local anesthetic is used to numb the area where the catheter is inserted, so you will feel no pain, but you may feel slight pressure as it is inserted further. The test usually lasts between 30 and 60 minutes, longer if other procedures such as angioplasty are planned. After the procedure you will usually be asked to remain lying on your back for a few hours to avoid bleeding, but after that recovery time is quick.
Cardiac catheterization is now so commonplace that there are few serious complications, but there is a slightly higher risk than other heart tests, so your Hackensack heart care specialist will explain all of the risks to you prior to the procedure. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to seafood or any medications, if you have had bad reactions to contrast dyes or iodine in the past, if you regularly take any medications (including Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs), and if you might be pregnant.
If you want to find out more about cardiac catheterization, call the best heart doctors in Bergen County at 201- 299-4479 and ask for a consultation. You can also visit our website at www.crosscountycardiology.com.