Cardiac catheterization is a procedure in which catheter, a long and narrow tube, is inserted in a blood vessel to diagnose, evaluate, or conduct procedures involving the heart. It helps in identifying the causes of heart diseases, disorders, and even heart failure. A catheter is inserted through the arm, neck, or leg to evaluate the functioning of the heart using X-ray. The catheter can be guided to a specific part or side of the heart.
Trained cardiologists perform this test after duly considering all risky factors. The imaging procedure of cardiac catheterization involves injecting a contrast dye through the catheter to make the coronary arteries, valves, and heart chambers clearly visible in the X-ray film. The patients may feel some discomfort after the insertion of a catheter and a period of rest after the procedure is advised to prevent bleeding from the site of catheter insertion.
How Is the Procedure Conducted?
In the procedure, the doctor administers medicines to help the patient relax before inserting the catheter. Patients are also advised about pre- and postprocedure preventive measures to make the procedure less risky. The procedure of cardiac catheterization involves insertion of a preliminary tube called a sheath that is placed in the artery or vein. Into the sheath, a catheter, which is a thinner and longer plastic tube, is inserted. The catheter is moved to the heart guided by an X-ray machine. Doctors measure oxygen, pressure, and flow of blood to and from the heart using this procedure.
The whole procedure lasts between 30 to 60 minutes. After the test, there may be a period of recovery. Before the procedure, patients should take care that they not eat or drink six to eight before the test to make it less risky. If the catheter is inserted into groin, the patient should recover by lying flat on the back for several hours after the test to prevent bleeding from movement, which may be risky.
Why is Cardiac Catheterization Done?
Doctors perform cardiac catheterization for many reasons:
• To detect blockages in blood vessels that may cause chest pain
• To diagnose congenital defects in the heart that may be present from birth
• To confirm proper functioning of the heart muscle
• To estimate if treatment or surgery is required
• To confirm presence of heart diseases like heart valve disease or identify heart failure
• Some curative heart procedures are conducted using cardiac catheterization
Is Cardiac Catheterization Risky?
Surgical procedures are risky to some degree. Cardiac catheterization is considered slightly more risky than other heart tests, but an experienced team of doctors can make the test less risky. Pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy should inform their doctor before opting for cardiac catheterization. Other physical conditions when cardiac catheterization can be risky include low blood pressure, heart attack, infection, stroke, past heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and allergic reaction to the contrast dye.
Some complications caused during a cardiac catheterization procedure can make it risky, such as clotting of the blood, damage of blood vessels, and damage to the kidneys due to the contrast dye.
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