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    Expert Insights on Cardiac Catheterization

    During cardiac catheterization, a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is inserted into a small incision and guided to your heart. Your doctor can use the catheter to take pictures and conduct tests inside the heart. Cardiac cath allows doctors to suggest treatment options for your heart problems based on the results of the photos or tests. Some procedures can even be done on the spot through cardiac cath.

    What to Expect During your Visit

    • You may undergo an angiography, in which the catheter takes x-ray pictures of blood vessels.
    • The catheter may be used for angioplasty, a procedure in which the catheter moves a balloon into the artery, which then inflates to open the artery and compress the plaque.
    • The catheter may also be used for stenting, which involves the catheter placing a stent into the narrow part of the artery to open the path of blood flow.
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    Expert Insights on Cardiac Catheterization

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Yes. All our physicians have staff privileges at the Gwinnett Medical Center. Depending on your diagnosis, you may see one of the other partners in conjunction with your primary cardiologist.

    We recommend letting the physician at this facility know who your primary cardiologist is. That physician will then notify us regarding your current illness. If necessary, can we arrange to transfer you to continue your care?

    If an urgent need does not require evaluation in a hospital setting, we can often make accommodations for you. Please call our front office so we can assist you with an appointment. You will then be seen by either our physician assistant or the physician available that day in our office. However, if you think there is an emergency, it is best to call 911, and our staff will see you urgently in the emergency room

    Cardiac catheterization diagnoses and treats cardiovascular conditions. A thin tube is inserted into the patient’s artery in the groin, neck, or arm, passing through blood vessels to the heart. This procedure helps assess heart and blood vessel health, diagnosing issues like chest pain, abnormal stress tests, heart valve conditions, high blood pressure, lung blood clots, and an enlarged heart.

    Your doctor could order a cardiac catheterization for several reasons.


    1) To determine whether there are blockages in the arteries that feed the heart

    2) To measure the pressures in the heart and the lungs

    3) To measure pressure differences across the valves of the heart

    The procedure is performed in a hospital setting, and while it only takes about 30-60 minutes, the preparation and recovery time can take several additional hours. Sometimes, the patient may have to spend the night in the hospital before or after the procedure. After cardiac catheterization, the doctor should have an informed idea of what is causing the problem and will be able to determine the best treatment plan for the patient. Full recovery time is usually a week or less, depending on where the catheter was inserted; the patient must keep the insertion area clean during recovery.

    The procedure is performed with conscious sedation. This means that you will get medications to help relax you and to help with pain. In addition, a local anesthetic will be administered to the area of access, either the groin or the wrist. Many people don't remember much of the procedure afterward because of the sedation that is administered.

    The risk of complications for patients undergoing cardiac catheterization electively is low. The most common complications include bleeding or discomfort at the site of access, either in the groin or the wrist. Rarely do these bleeding complications require a blood transfusion or surgery to fix the artery. Less common, though more dangerous, complications can occur, including stroke, heart attack, or even death. You should talk to your doctor about these risks.

    Most procedures are done to determine whether there are significant blockages in the arteries that feed your heart. If your doctor finds a severe bottleneck, he or she may open that blockage with a balloon and stent, a small metal tube inserted to keep the artery open. If your doctor finds several severe blockages, he or she may suggest you have coronary bypass surgery.

    After a cardiac catheterization, most patients spend a couple of hours in the recovery unit. If the procedure involved the large artery in the groin, a device or stitch may have been inserted to seal the hole, requiring the patient to lay flat for a couple of hours. If a tube were pulled from the groin, the patient would need to lay flat for around 4 hours post-procedure. Avoid driving or lifting heavy objects for a few days afterward. A band is used to apply pressure on the artery for procedures via the small wrist artery. Discomfort at the access site and some bruising may occur in the days following the process. Notify your doctor if a lump forms or if there is significant bleeding, in which case immediate medical attention is necessary.

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