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Cardiac Catherterization

What Is a Cardiac Catheterization?

A cardiac catheterization is a procedure that examines the heart. A physician can measure pressures inside the heart, check the cardiac vales, take pictures of the arteries bringing blood to the heart, and evaluate how well the heart is pumping.

When Is a Cardiac Catheterization Scheduled?

When a person develops chest pain or discomfort a blocked artery is suspected. A cardiac catheterization is scheduled to diagnose coronary artery disease and the exact location of the blockages. In some cases a person undergoes an exercise tolerance test (Stress Test) that is read as abnormal. In these cases a cardiac catheterization is performed to help diagnose block arteries. In other situations, people have a cardiac catheterization to evaluate heart failure or shortness of breath caused by malfunctioning heart valves.

What Happens Before a Cardiac Catheterization?

Patients come to the hospital in the morning, undergo the cardiac catheterization procedure, and leave later in the afternoon. Such procedures are called outpatient procedures. Your cardiologist will explain why and how the procedure will be done and its risks. The night before your catheterization, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight. You may take your regular heart medications with a small sip of water. Ask your cardiologist about your diabetic medicine.

What Are the Risks Associated with Cardiac Catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is relatively safe. There is a small risk of bleeding, infection, allergic reaction to the dye, damage to blood vessels, and kidney failure associated with the procedure. Please inform your cardiologist if you are diabetic or allergic to IVP dye. Special precautions can be taken to lessen complications. In the average patient, the risk of severe complications such as stroke, heart attack, and even death is low, less than 1%.

How Is the Procedure Done?

There are a few techniques utilized to perform cardiac catheterization. The Sones technique utilizes the arm and a small incision is made in the fold of the arm (antecubital area) to visualize the artery. The Judkins technique utilizes the groin area or the wrist where a catheter is inserted with a puncture. A local anesthetic is given by injection so you will not feel pain at the insertion site.

What Happens During a Cardiac Catheterization?

Patients are usually given a mild sedative before the procedure to help them relax. Most patients are awake but slightly sleepy during the procedure. Once inside the cardiac catheterization lab, you will be transferred to the cardiac catheterization table. The site will be shaved/cleansed and then area numbed with anesthetic. After that, a small straw sized tube will be inserted into the artery. Once the catheter is in place, a dye is injected to make your coronary arteries show up clearly on a special TVScreen. These pictures are recorded on film so your doctor can go back later and look at them. The entire procedure can take from IS minutes to an hour.

What Happens After Cardiac Catheterization?

After the procedure, the catheter is removed and insertion site is closed with a few stitches (arm site) or with pressure dressing or catheter plug (groin site). If you have a groin site you will need to remain flat for 4-6 hours unless a catheter plug is Inserted. Patients who receive a plug can sit up within an hour and walk around within several hours. Please check with your nurse regarding what activities you can perform. The site may be tender. If you experience unusual tenderness, pain, or swelling please talk to your cardiologist.

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