Cardiac Catheterization

by Carol Gomes

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to examine the heart and coronary arteries. It serves as a diagnostic tool for cardiovascular conditions and may also be used in their treatment. In a cardiac catheterization procedure, the doctor inserts a catheter into an artery or vein of the neck, arm or groin. It is then gently pushed towards the heart through the blood vessels.

Doctors usually prescribe this test when a patient complains of chest pain, as it may be indicative of coronary heart disease. Through cardiac catheterization, a doctor can detect blocked or constricted arteries due to plaque.

Treatments such as an angioplasty may also be carried out using cardiac catheterization. A treatment plan can be decided based on the results of a cardiac catheterization procedure in individuals experiencing chest pains after recovering from a heart attack, or those who have suffered extensive heart damage. Cardiac catheterization is also useful in deciding treatment when other tests such as a stress test or electrocardiogram indicate heart disease.

If you have been asked to undergo cardiac catheterization, you may be asked to stop taking any anticoagulant medications for a couple of days before the procedure. People with diabetes who are on insulin or other medications may need to stop their medication for a couple of days prior to the test. You may also be asked to refrain from eating or drinking anything for a few hours before your procedure.

Your doctor will explain the results to you after the procedure. Cardiac catheterization may indicate that you need an angioplasty or stent in case a coronary angiogram was also performed during the test. In some cases, surgery such as coronary bypass may be necessary. In case your doctor detects a narrowed artery, angioplasty may be an effective treatment. The angioplasty may be done immediately so that you don't need to undergo cardiac catheterization again.

There are some risks associated with procedures performed on the heart and the surrounding blood vessels. Cardiac catheterization too may lead to certain complications in rare cases. These include bleeding, bruising, arterial damage, arrhythmia, allergic reaction, tearing of the artery or heart tissue, infection, blood clots, heart attack and stroke. The risk of such complications is small and may occur in people with existing serious heart disease. It is advisable to discuss these risks or any other concerns with your doctor.



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