Understanding Cardiac Catheterization

  • Department of:
  • Adena Regional Medical Center

Cardiac catheterization is a medical procedure performed on patients who suffer from a variety of heart conditions. Catheterization can diagnose and also occasionally treat these conditions.

During catheterization, the catheter — a long, thin tube — is threaded through a blood vessel in the arm, neck or groin and into the heart, allowing diagnostic testing and treatment to be performed.

How it’s used

One test a doctor might perform with the catheter is a coronary angiography. An angiography involves injecting a colored dye into the catheter and then observing the patient’s coronary arteries through an X-ray. (The dye provides doctors with greater visibility.) This procedure allows doctors to see where plaque — a waxy substance that restricts blood flow to the heart — has built up within the arteries. Plaque buildup in the coronary arteries is a dangerous symptom of and precursor to coronary heart disease. If your doctors detect blockage, they might choose to implant a stent, a small tube that expands the artery to allow better blood flow to your heart.

Cardiologists, who generally perform catheterizations in hospitals, also can use ultrasound technology to see your heart’s blood vessels. During catheterization, they might perform a biopsy by removing a muscle sample for further diagnostic tests.

Does it hurt?

Catheterization is typically a pain- and complication-free procedure, although patients might experience some soreness in the blood vessel through which the catheter is threaded. 

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