When we suspect possible cardiovascular problems, we may call for cardiac catheterization. This fast, low-risk test enables your Orlando Heart & Vascular Institute doctor to spot narrowed arteries, check the pumping function of your heart, and gather other necessary information or perform certain actions.
What is cardiac catheterization?
In cardiac catheterization, a long thin tube called a catheter is inserted in an artery or vein in your groin, neck, or arm. This catheter is then threaded through the blood vessel to your heart. There the catheter can be used to conduct diagnostic tests or perform some heart disease treatments, such as coronary angioplasty.
How do I prepare to have cardiac catheterization?
Preparation isn’t elaborate for these procedures. Before your test, these are the preparations:
- No food or drink for 6 hours prior to your test.
- You will probably stop blood-thinning medications.
- Bring any medications or supplements with you to your test.
How is cardiac catheterization done?
You will be awake, but sedated during this procedure. After local numbing, we insert the catheter into the chosen artery in the groin, neck, or arm. It is then threaded toward the heart. What happens next depends on the reason you are having cardiac catheterization. Once the procedure is completed, the catheter is removed and your cardiac catheterization is complete.
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What is cardiac catheterization used for?
These are common uses of this procedure:
- Coronary angiogram — If we’re looking for blockages in your arteries leading to your heart, we’ll inject dye through the catheter and then take x-ray images of your heart.
- Right heart catheterization — This procedure checks the pressure and blood flow in the right side of your heart. The catheter inserted has special sensors to measure these rates.
- Heart biopsy — For biopsies, the catheter in these procedures has a jaw-like tip that can take a tissue sample of your heart tissue.
- Balloon angioplasty — If you have a narrowed artery, the catheter is threaded to the problem area. Once in place, a small balloon catheter is fed through the flexible catheter. At the narrowed area, the balloon is inflated to open the artery. If necessary to keep the artery open, a mesh coil (stent) is placed in the narrowed portion.
- Balloon valvuloplasty — This is similar to an angioplasty, but the goal is to open a narrowed heart valve. Here the catheter is threaded across the valve and is then inflated. This makes the valve open more easily.
- Repair of heart defects — If your heart has a hole or a leak, the catheter will deliver the appropriate device to close or correct the defect.
- Valve replacement — Similar to balloon valvuloplasty, but here an artificial valve is implanted to replace a leaky or narrowed heart valve.
- Heart ablation — If you have abnormal heart rhythms, the catheter is advanced to the area of the heart creating the abnormal signals. Radiofrequency energy is then delivered through the catheter to ablate/damage the area where the abnormal electrical impulses are originating.
How long does recovery take after cardiac catheterization?
It takes several hours to recover after you have cardiac catheterization. When the procedure is finished, the catheter is removed and we take you to a recovery room to let the anesthesia wear off. Next we’ll take you to an outpatient room where you’ll need to lie flat for several hours to allow the incision point in the groin, neck, or wrist to heal. Then, you’ll likely be sent home.
What are the risks involved with cardiac catheterization?
Since these procedures involve your heart and blood vessels, there are risks involved. Generally this is a safe, reliable procedure. These are the risks:
- Heart attack
- Damage to the artery where the catheter was inserted
- Allergic reaction to dye used
- Allergic reaction to anesthesia
- Tearing the tissue of your heart
- Tearing the tissue of an artery
- Kidney damage
- Development of blood clots
Cardiac catheterization is performed because you have potential cardiovascular problems. The risks involved with your heart far outweigh any involved with these tests.