Cardiac catheterization

What is cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is an invasive medical procedure which is used to diagnose and treat a variety of cardiac conditions. It involves passing a slender tube, called a catheter, through a patient’s bloodstream and into the heart. The cardiologist then uses specialized imaging techniques such as X-ray or ultrasound to examine the catheter and gain detailed information about the patient’s heart. Cardiac catheterization can be used to measure pressures within the heart, diagnose and treat certain cardiac diseases, or even perform a cardiac procedure such as a balloon angioplasty or ablation.

Preparation for Cardiac Catheterization

Prior to undergoing the procedure, the cardiologist or gastroenterologist preparing the patient will explain all the necessary preparations. The patient will be provided with specific instructions regarding diet, medications, and activities prior to the procedure. On the day of the procedure, the patient will also be asked to arrive at least an hour before the scheduled time to make sure that all the necessary tests can be performed.

Procedure of Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is usually performed with the patient lying on a bed in a semi-reclined position. The patient’s arm or leg is sterilised and a local anesthetic is injected into the skin to numb the area. The catheter is then inserted into a blood vessel using a special instrument. The cardiologist then guides the catheter slowly through the coronary arteries and into the heart.

Types of Cardiac Catheterization

  • Coronary angiography — used to evaluate the coronary arteries and uncover areas of blockage or narrowing.
  • Left ventriculography — used to examine the structural and functional components of the left ventricle.
  • Intravenous/endocardial ultrasonic imaging — used to determine the shape and the wall motion of the heart chambers.
  • Right heart catheterization — used to measure pressures in the lungs and the amount of oxygen being carried from the lungs to the rest of the body.
  • Transesophageal echocardiography — used to measure the pressure inside the chambers of the heart and to detect any abnormal flow of blood.

Risks of Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is generally considered a safe procedure; however, some risks and side effects may include infection, bleeding, arrhythmias, and obstruction in the blood vessels. Additionally, there is a small chance of severe reactions to the medications and anesthesia used during the procedure.

Why Is Cardiac Catheterization Necessary?

Cardiac catheterization is necessary to diagnose a number of cardiac conditions such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and certain valve disorders. It is also an important tool for cardiologists in evaluating the response to certain medications and therapies. Additionally, cardiac catheterization is necessary for heart procedures such as balloon angioplasty, stent placement, or ablation.

When Is Cardiac Catheterization Needed?

Cardiac catheterization typically is not recommended unless there is an indication that the patient is likely to benefit from the procedure. Some common indications include a high risk for coronary artery disease, recent heart attack, chest pain, or abnormal findings on an electrocardiogram. It may also be recommended if the patient has a family history of heart disease, a history of smoking, or other risk factors.