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A cardiac catheterization is a procedure done to examine the heart structure and function.

This lesson will discuss the differences between a diagnostic and an interventional cardiac catheterization.

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Heart Abnormality

Robert is a forty-five-year old man who recently had a syncopal episode and an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). His cardiologist saw that there may be an abnormality in one of his heart valves that may have caused him to pass out. Robert’s cardiologist suggests a cardiac catheterization to investigate his heart valves.

Cardiac catheterization can be done to diagnose heart valve abnormalities
Cardiac catheterization can be done to diagnose heart valve abnormalities

What Is a Cardiac Catheterization?

A cardiac catheterization is a procedure where a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and threaded to the heart.

An x-ray displays an image of what is in the blood vessels and heart onto a monitor, showing the structures and function of the heart.

Basic Steps of Cardiac Catheterization

The basic steps of a cardiac catheterization are the same for diagnostic and interventional catheterizations. They include:

  1. Intravenous access inserted in the arm to provide a small amount of sedation. The patient remains awake during the procedure.
  2. The insertion area for the catheter is numbed, usually the groin or arm.
  3. A small tube called a sheath is inserted into the blood vessel and guided through the vessel to the heart.

    The catheter is threaded through the sheath to the heart while images are displayed on a monitor.

  4. Once the diagnostic test or intervention is completed, the catheter and sheath are removed and pressure is applied to the sight of insertion.
  5. If the catheter was in the groin, the patient will have to lay flat without bending the leg for several hours.
  6. The patient may go home after resting or may stay in the hospital overnight.

Robert understands how the procedure will be done.

He is now asking his cardiologist why the cardiac catheterization is so important.

Purpose of Cardiac Catheterization

A cardiac catheterization is done for several reasons. Previous non-invasive tests may show a concern as to how well the heart is functioning. Some examples of these tests include:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): twelve monitoring leads placed on the chest detect electrical activity of the heart
  • Chest x-ray: an image of the chest shows the structure of the heart
  • Stress test: stress is placed on the heart through exercise or medication to determine if the heart is getting enough oxygen when being strained
  • Echocardiogram (echo): an ultrasound of the heart that shows heart function, movement, and structure
Electrocardiogram
Expanding a narrow artery with angioplasty
Expanding a narrow artery with angioplasty

Robert discusses what type of cardiac catheterization will be best. The cardiologist suggests a diagnostic catheterization to take a general assessment of how well the heart is functioning and how narrow his heart valve is.

If the conditional is manageable, then Robert will continue to follow up with his cardiologist twice a year. If the valve is severely narrowed, Robert trusts his cardiologist to do the balloon valvuloplasty during the cardiac catheterization.

Lesson Summary

A cardiac catheterization is a procedure where a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in the groin or arm and threaded to the heart.

It can be diagnostic or interventional. Non-invasive tests that recommend a cardiac cardioversion are an electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, stress test, and echocardiogram. A diagnostic cardiac cardioversion is done to assess the function and structure of the heart, pressures in the heart, and defects in valves. Common diagnostic tests are an angiogram and a fractional flow reserve.

Interventional cardiac catheterizations are done to correct any heart abnormalities. Common interventions are angioplasty, stents, and balloon valvuloplasty. A cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive option to correct minor problems in the heart.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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