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What Is Cardiac Catheterization?

A catheter is a thin, flexible tube that can be inserted into a blood vessel. During cardiac catheterization, a catheter is placed into a blood vessel in the arm, leg, groin or neck and then moved through your vessel toward the heart using X-ray images to help position the catheter. Once the catheter is in place near the heart, it can perform various measurements and procedures.

It can evaluate heart function, measure blood pressure, identify heart defects and heart valve problems, and take samples of the heart muscle or blood within the heart.

The catheter can also perform an electrophysiology study (EP study.)
An EP study gathers information about electrical pulses around your heart.

One common procedure performed during cardiac catheterization is coronary angiography. Dyes are injected from the catheter into the bloodstream and x-rays are used to show blood flow through your coronary arteries. Doctors use the angiogram to determine whether blockages in the arteries are present and whether blood flow is restricted due to atherosclerosis.

Another procedure that is performed with catheterization is coronary angioplasty. In coronary angioplasty, a balloon catheter is used to open blocked arteries or open arteries that have significant plaque buildup.

There are many reasons why you might have cardiac catheterization:

  • To determine the cause of chest pain
  • To open arteries during a heart attack
  • To gather more information about your heart disease
  • To examine your heart valves
  • To identify heart defects
  • To take samples of your heart in the case of infection or heart tumor
  • To perform other procedures that require a catheter, such as angioplasty
  • To place a stent in an artery

You are awake when a cardiac catheterization is performed. You may receive a mild sedative to calm you and a local anesthesia at the site where the IV line is placed. Depending on the specific procedures performed during the cardiac catheterization, you may go home the same day or remain overnight in the hospital for recovery and monitoring.


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