Basic information about some of the most frequently performed cardiac procedures
Catheterization can provide answers
Cardiac catheterization is useful in diagnosing congenital heart defects, artery blockages that could lead to a heart attack and valvular disease, as well as for monitoring blood flow after surgery. It can help your medical team determine whether to recommend surgery, angioplasty or another treatment.
The procedure begins with a doctor placing a small tube – a sheath - into the femoral artery located in the groin of the leg, or may be performed via the radial artery in your wrist - after a local anesthetic is used to alleviate pain. While the sheath is being inserted, you may feel a slight pressure. The doctor then inserts a long, thin, flexible tube, (a catheter) through the sheath. Once the catheter is in place, the physician injects dye through the catheter into the arteries of the heart and looks for blockages using x-ray equipment. Occasionally a second catheter may be placed in the heart to record heart chamber pressures and obtain blood samples in order to diagnose heart disease.
Angioplasty – a lifesaving procedure
Primary angioplasty is a procedure in which a tiny balloon is guided under x-ray to a blocked artery of the heart through a small tube placed in the groin by a physician. The balloon is then inflated and used to open the artery that’s been narrowed from the buildup of cholesterol-laden plaque. Our Cardiology program is licensed by the state to perform emergency angioplasty for patients having a heart attack. Because heart attacks occur when blood flow to a section of heart muscle becomes blocked, it is important to open blocked arteries quickly to reduce damage to the heart.
Stenting – often the next step after angioplasty
Often performed after an angioplasty, stenting involves inserting a small mesh tube – about a half-inch long - into an artery to help it stay open. A balloon-tipped catheter expands the stent once it is inflated and helps to implant it in the walls of the artery.
Pacemakers – help with your heart’s rhythm
When there is a defect in the heart's electrical conduction system (known as an arrhythmia) that affects the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat, it’s sometimes necessary to insert a pacemaker. A pacemaker delivers electrical impulses to the heart muscle to increase its pumping action and maintain an adequate heart rate. Wires called electrodes are placed into the heart and the power source, the pacemaker generator, is surgically placed under the skin and above the muscles and bones of the chest wall.