Cardiac catheterization is an advanced diagnostic procedure to measure and visualize, amongst other things, narrowed arteries that can cause future heart attacks. Patients who are experiencing symptoms associated with narrowed arteries such as shortness of breath, angina or chest pain, unexplained fainting, and more may benefit from cardiac catheterization. Cardiac catheterization can also be used to see a patient’s progress after a heart attack or evaluate the results of a procedure. A curative procedure can also be performed in conjunction with cardiac catheterization.
How Cardiac Catheterization Works
Cardiac catheterization is performed in an advanced operating suite known as a cath lab in a hospital setting. Patients will be sedated, and their interventional cardiologist may ask questions about how and what they feel during the procedure. Depending on what is being performed – a simple diagnostic or a complex procedure – cardiac catheterization can take anywhere from a couple hours to most of the day. However, the true benefit of the cardiac catheterization is improved visualization in a more minimally invasive manner with a reduced recovery time, when compared to open surgery. During the procedure, a small incision is made in the groin or in the arm and a long thin spaghetti-like tube known as a cardiac catheter is threaded into a blood vessel. This catheter is directed towards the heart using fluoroscopic or ultrasound visualization, giving the interventional cardiologist a real time view of the cardiovascular system
Procedures That Can Be Performed With a Cardiac Catheterization
One of the great benefits of cardiac catheterization is that while it can be used as a diagnostic tool, follow-up procedures can be performed at the same time, if necessary. This can include a balloon angioplasty with stent placement to further open an artery, an ablation including RF ablation and cryoablation for arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation or Afib and even to replace a faulty valve using a procedure known as TAVR.
The Benefits of Cardiac Catheterization
The definitive benefit of catheterization over prior interventions is its minimal invasiveness. Until just a few decades ago, some procedures we now perform in a minimally invasive manner would have been unthinkable. Further, patients who are not healthy enough for open heart surgery may benefit from this minimally invasive option.
The Risks of Cardiac Catheterization
Cardiac catheterization has, relatively speaking, few risks. The most common risk is pain, blood loss, or infection at the catheter insertion site. Even these risks are relatively low. More rarely, structural damage to the blood vessel or to the heart is possible, but these are extremely rare. Risks can be minimized by employing a very experienced and knowledgeable interventional cardiologist or electrophysiologist such as those at Nevada Cardiology Associates.
You will learn more about cardiac catheterization during your consultation with one of our physicians. We will discuss the benefits and risks as they relate to your circumstance, and you will understand more about the diagnostic value of this procedure as well as the potential for performing a curative procedure at the same time. For more information, please schedule a consultation with our office.