Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization, also known as a “cath,” is a medical test to check and treat some heart conditions. The test lets your heart specialist see inside your arteries for blockages.

Who needs cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is used to diagnose and treat coronary artery disease, or CAD. With CAD, a buildup of fatty material called plaque clogs the arteries that send blood to the heart. When blood flow is completely blocked, a patient has a heart attack.

What to expect during a cardiac catheterization

Doctors use a thin flexible tube called a catheter to do the diagnostic exam. It is inserted through a vein in the arm or leg to reach the heart.

Through the catheter, your doctor can view plaque buildup and often provide treatment. The patient is awake for the procedure, which does not hurt.

Cardiac catheterization results

A cardiac catheterization gives your doctor important information. It lets your doctor:

  • See if plaque has built up in your arteries and blocks blood flow. By putting dye in the catheter, your doctor can see your arteries using X-rays. The test is called a coronary angiography.

  • View blockages with the help of an ultrasound. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the arteries that supply blood to your heart.

  • Take samples of blood and heart muscle, and do minor surgery to correct problems.

Treating CAD with cardiac catheterization

During a cardiac catheterization, your heart specialist may do the following treatments:

  • Angioplasty: A tiny balloon is put at the end of the catheter to unblock a blood vessel.

  • Stent placement: A stent is a small tube placed inside an artery to help blood flow. Sometimes stents are coated with medicine, which helps healing.


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