What Is Cardiac Catheterization?
What is cardiac catheterization? Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to test for, diagnose and oftentimes, treat or correct cardiac or vascular problems. Sometimes, physicians use cardiac catheterization to locate and diagnose specific problems in the cardiovascular system such as narrowing of arteries or other blood vessels, problems with heart valves, pressure within the heart itself or even to take a biopsy of the heart itself. Sometimes, cardiac catheterization is used in conjunction with other medical procedures in order to treat a patient's heart disease. Some examples of this would be angioplasty that may or may not include the placement of stents or balloon valvuloplasty.
If cardiac catheterization includes angioplasty, a tiny balloon is threaded through the catheter which may be expanded at the site of a blockage in order to open a narrowed artery. Oftentimes, cardiac catheterization that includes angioplasty will also include the placement of small metal coils known as stents in order to keep the artery from narrowing again once it has been opened. If the cardiac catheterization includes balloon valvuloplasty, a tiny balloon is threaded through the catheter to the heart valve in need of repair where it is expanded in order to open the narrowed valve. Occasionally, cardiac catheterization is used to thread the catheter to repair a small hole in the heart eliminating the need for open heart surgery and greatly decreasing a patient's recovery time. Your physician may also perform an angiogram to locate blockages by injecting a special dye through the catheter.
While there are risks involved with any surgical procedure, complications during cardiac catheterization are rare. Cardiac catheterization is usually performed while the patient is awake and the catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin or wrist. You may be sedated during the cardiac catheterization, but will remain awake so that you may follow instructions given by your physician.
Once cardiac catheterization is complete, the patient is taken to a recovery room and then later to a regular hospital room for recovery. Some patients are able to go home the same day as the procedure while others may remain in the hospital overnight. Overall, the use of cardiac catheterization has decreased patient recovery times and many of the complications associated with traditional open heart surgery.