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    Expert Insights on Cardiac Catheterization

    During cardiac catheterization, a catheter (a thin flexible tube) in 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 an angioplasty, a procedure where the catheter moves a balloon into the artery, which then inflates to open the artery and compress 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 of 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 we can make arrangements to have you then transferred to continue your care?

    If there is an urgent need that does not require evaluation in a hospital setting we can often make accommodations for you. Please call our front office to assist you with an appointment. You will then be seen by either our physician assistant or the physician who is 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.

    A cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose and treat various cardiovascular conditions. It is usually performed in addition to an angiogram, or an x-ray of blood and lymph vessels. Cardiac catheterization involves the insertion of a thin tube, or catheter, into the patient’s artery in their groin, neck, or arm. It is then passed through the blood vessels to the heart. This helps doctors determine the health of the patient’s heart and blood vessels. It can be used to diagnose common heart and blood vessel problems like chest pain or an abnormal stress test due to coronary artery disease, heart valve conditions like a leaky or narrowed valve, a high blood pressure condition in the lungs, blood clots in the lungs, and an enlarged heart.

    Your doctor could order a cardiac catheterization for a number of 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. In certain instances, the patient may have to spend the night in the hospital either 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 will need to 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, 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.

    For patients undergoing cardiac catheterization electively, the risk of complications is low. The most common complications include bleeding or discomfort at the site of access, either in the groin or the wrist. Rarely 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.

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

    Most patients spend a couple of hours in the recovery unit following a cardiac catheterization. If your procedure was done via the large artery in the groin, your doctor may have inserted a device or stitch to seal the hole that was made. If this is the case, he will lay flat for a couple of hours. If the tube was left in the groin and had to be pulled, he will lay flat for 4 hours or so following the procedure. You should not drive or lift heavy objects for a few days following the procedure. If your procedure was done via the small artery in the wrist, he or she will have a band over the artery in the wrist hold pressure on the artery. In the days following the procedure, you may feel some discomfort at the access site. There will also possibly be some bruising in the groin or over the wrist. If you feel a lump form, you should call your doctor's office to let them know. If there is significant bleeding, you should hold pressure and call your doctor's office or 911.

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