What is Cardiac Catheterization?

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Peterson’s Cardiac Catheterization/Interventional Radiology department (CCIR) is designed to diagnose and treat patients with heart disease and identify vascular system blockages.  If you’re experiencing chest pain, your doctor might recommend this minimally invasive procedure to identify narrow or blocked arteries and evaluate how well your heart is working.  Cardiac Catheterization can help doctors locate exactly where the blockage is and determine the best course of treatment.

This is some general information designed to help you understand cardiac catheterization.

How does the heart function?

The heart is a pump, which circulates blood that returns from the body. It is divided into the left and right side having a different function in the heart’s pumping action. The right side of the heart receives blood from the body through your veins and pumps it to the lungs. In the lungs, the blood picks up a supply of oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, which is exhaled as a waste product. The left side of the heart receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs. Blood is then pumped into the aorta, or main artery of the heart, to smaller arteries, which carry it throughout the body.

The heart is a muscle, which needs its own supply of oxygen and nutrients. Blood is supplied to the heart through coronary arteries. These arteries surround the heart and reach into the heart muscle so every part is supplied with blood. There are three main coronary arteries. The left coronary artery (LCA) divides into two branches and carries blood to the front of the left heart and to the back. The right coronary artery (RCA) supplies blood to the right side of the heart and to the lower part of the heart and parts of the back of the heart.

What is cardiac catheterization?

A cardiac catheterization allows the doctor to examine the chambers, valves, and arteries of the heart. The test is done in a special room called the catheterization laboratory (cath lab). The heart is catheterized on the right side, the left side or both sides. A hollow needle is put into the artery for a left heart cath or an artery and a vein for both sides. A flexible wire is threaded through the hollow needle into the vessel. The catheter is then put over the wire in the blood vessel. The doctor watches the catheter move toward the heart on an x-ray machine known as a flouroscope. When a catheter is in proper position, dye is put through the opening of the catheter. Dye lets the doctor see the coronary arteries and chambers of the heart.

What does the doctor learn from the heart catheterization?

A cardiac catheterization is the most accurate way to see if you have coronary artery disease (CAD), and if so how much. CAD is the build up of deposits of fats, cholesterol and calcium in the arteries of the heart. Blockage prevents blood from flowing freely through the arteries. When this occurs, the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen and nourishment. Chest pain, also known as angina, may result. Angina can also be described as chest pain, pressure, aching in jaw, neck, and shoulders. Other symptoms are nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. The cardiac cath also shows whether the valves and heart muscles are working properly. If the valves are not working, medicines, surgery or balloon procedure may be needed to fix the problem.

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