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Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization, also known as a coronary angiogram, is a medical procedure that involves threading a thin, flexible tube called a catheter through a blood vessel in the groin or arm and into the heart. 

During a cardiac catheterization, a contrast dye is injected through the catheter into the heart and X-ray images are taken to visualize the heart and its blood vessels. This allows doctors to see any blockages or other abnormalities in the coronary arteries that may be causing symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath.

The length of time a cardiac catheterization takes varies but usually about an hour.

Most people do not experience pain during a cardiac catheterization, but some may feel pressure or discomfort as the catheter is inserted. Local anesthesia is used to numb the area where the catheter is inserted, so there may be a small amount of discomfort from the needle used to inject the anesthetic.

The pain in this procedure is having to lie flat afterwards for an hour with a pressure transducer on your groin, if that was where they accessed your heart.  Radial artery approach is less of an issue as you need not lie flat.

Common diagnoses made by a cardiac catheterization include:

  • Coronary artery disease, which occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked.

  • Heart valve problems, such as stenosis (narrowing) or regurgitation (leakage) of the valves.

  • Congenital heart defects, which are heart abnormalities that are present at birth.

  • Heart muscle problems, such as cardiomyopathy or heart failure.

  • Aortic aneurysm or dissection, which are potentially life-threatening conditions that involve the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

To prepare:

  • No eating or drinking for six to eight hours before the Cath procedure.

  • Don’t stop taking your medicine until your doctor tells you to.

  • Tell your doctor or nurse if you are allergic to anything, especially iodine, shellfish, latex or rubber products, medicines like penicillin, or X-ray dye.

  • You need a drive home after your procedure.

Video reference: Cardiac Catheterization

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