Learn how a heart catheterization is done and what are the risks associated with it.
Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic procedure for heart conditions. In this procedure, a long, thin, flexible tube known as a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck and threaded to your heart.
Cardiac catheterization is mainly done to examine/confirm the presence of coronary artery disease, valve disease or disease of the aorta, determine heart muscle function and determine the need for treatments such as an interventional procedure, coronary artery bypass graft or surgery. Some heart treatments such as coronary angioplasty are done using cardiac catheterization.
[Read: Most Important Heart Screenings]
How is a Cardiac Catheterization Performed?
Doctor may put a special type of dye in the catheter, which flows through your bloodstream to your heart. The doctor will then take x-ray images of your heart and dye will make your coronary (heart) arteries visible on the pictures. Known as coronary angiography, dye reveals if a waxy substance called plaque has build up inside your coronary arteries. The build-up of plaque referred to as heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease narrows or blocks the arteries, restricting the blood flow to your heart.
To look at the blockages in the coronary arteries, doctors may also use ultrasound during cardiac catheterization. The procedure of ultrasound can also be used to create detailed pictures of the heart's blood vessels. Samples of blood and heart muscle during cardiac catheterization can be taken for heart surgery.
During the procedure, a patient is given a mild sedative that relaxes him/her. A local anaesthetic is used to numb the catheter insertion site. As there is no large incision used to open the chest and the recovery time is much shorter than that of surgery, cardiac catheterization is not considered a surgical procedure.
Risks Associated with Heart Catheterization
Cardiac catheterization is done in a cardiac catheterization laboratory by cardiovascular invasive physician. It rarely causes serious complications, although, you must know the certain risks of the procedure beforehand. Some of the possible risks of cardiac catheterization include:
- irregular heart rhythm,
- allergic reaction to the material or equipment used during the procedure,
- bleeding at the catheter insertion site,
- chest pain or angina,
- mild to moderate skin reactions such as sun-burn, usually happen from X-ray exposure,
- kidney failure,
- heart attack,
- blood clots,
- acute closure of coronary artery and
- emergency coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery
Whenever you meet with your doctor, it is advised to discuss with him/her to make sure you understand why the procedure is being done and what could be the potential risks.
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