What Is Cardiac Catheterization?
A common diagnostic test, cardiac catheterization evaluates the condition of the heart muscle, valves and vessels. During the procedure, doctors insert special long, flexible tubes, called angiography catheters, into the heart and coronary arteries. Dye is injected through the catheter, allowing doctors to take X-rays of any problems within the heart muscle and blood vessels.
Other terms used to describe cardiac catheterization include coronary angiography, angiogram, cardiac cath and heart cath.
Why Is Catheterization Important?
Cardiac catheterization provides more accurate and detailed information about how well the heart is working than other diagnostic tests. It helps doctors diagnosis problems with the heart accurately and it lets them choose the best possible treatment.
Other Procedures Performed in the Catheterization Labs
Angioplasty allows doctors to open narrowed arteries without major surgery. Similar to cardiac catheterization, a long, thin catheter is inserted into the heart and arteries. A small balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated at the site of the blockage, pushing the plaque against the artery wall.
In many cases, the cardiologist may implant a stent, a small mesh-like device, within the artery. These devices can improve the long-term outcomes by reducing the need for repeat procedures.
After the insertion of a stent, patients are prescribed medications to prevent blood clots from forming and blocking the stent. The most common medication is Plavix.
Doctors may also use drug-eluting stents, which are covered with a special coating and drug that slowly releases medicine into the artery wall. The medicine helps reduce the growth of tissue in and around the stent.