What is cardiac catheterization?
Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose and treat certain heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is a common but serious disease caused by a blockage or narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This can lead to a heart attack. Cardiac catheterization involves passing a long, thin tube (catheter) into your heart by inserting it though a blood vessel in your neck, groin or arm. Dye is injected into the catheter and this allows your doctor to see detailed images of your heart and coronary arteries and perform other tests and treatments. This includes opening blocked coronary arteries (angioplasty).
Cardiac catheterization is only one method that your doctor can use to diagnose and treat certain heart conditions. You should discuss all your options with your doctor or healthcare provider to best understand which option is right for you.
Other procedures that may be performed
Cardiac catheterization allows your doctor to perform a variety of tests and treatments, such as:
- Angioplasty to widen a narrowed or obstructed heart artery
- Blood clot removal, which involves injection of a clot-dissolving medication into the artery via the catheter
- Coronary angiography, which involves taking real-time X-ray images of your heart and blood vessels. Your doctor sees the images on a video screen as he or she performs your cardiac catheterization. Angiography can detect which coronary arteries are blocked.
- Heart tissue biopsy, which involves removing a sample of heart muscle cells and testing it for cancer and other diseases
- Measuring blood pressure in the heart
- Measuring oxygen levels in the heart
- Repair of some birth defects of the heart, such as an atrial septal defect. An atrial septal defect is a hole between the upper chambers of the heart.
- Repair or replacement of diseased heart valves. Heart valve replacement via a catheter is not a standard procedure and is only available at certain medical centers.
- Stent placement with a mesh tube, which is permanently inserted into the blood vessel to keep the vessel open
- Taking a blood sample from the heart
Why is cardiac catheterization performed?
Your doctor may perform cardiac catheterization to diagnose and treat certain heart diseases and conditions. Your doctor can use cardiac catheterization to evaluate the function of the heart, heart valves, and the major blood vessels of the heart. This can determine the underlying cause of certain symptoms, such as chest pain.
Cardiac catheterization can also help your doctor plan the best treatment for you. Sometimes your doctor can perform certain treatments right away during the cardiac catheterization. This commonly includes angioplasty to widen narrowed or obstructed heart arteries. Your doctor may also use cardiac catheterizationto check your progress after angioplasty or another procedure.
Your doctor may recommend a cardiac catheterization for certain heart diseases and conditions, such as:
- Aortic stenosis, a disorder of the valve between your heart and your aorta. Your aorta is the main artery leaving your heart.
- Blood clots, or coronary thrombosis
- Chest pain due to abnormal heart function, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), or other conditions
- Coronary artery disease (CAD), a buildup of plaque on the walls of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart
- Coronary blood vessel malformations present at birth. Many abnormalities do not cause symptoms, but may cause problems at various times from birth through adulthood
- Heart attack, which is largely due to atherosclerosis or a blood clot blocking blood flow to the heart
- Heart failure when the underlying cause cannot be determined by other tests
- Unclear stress test results for symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain
- Unstable angina, which is chest pain that occurs suddenly in the absence of activity. Unstable angina is primarily due to atherosclerosis.
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© Copyright 2012 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.