Cardiac Catheterization

At Nacogdoches Medical Center, we invest in new and advanced diagnostic tests and tools to help us understand the complexity of cardiovascular diseases. Cardiac catheterization is one of the advanced procedures we offer to diagnose conditions affecting the heart valves, muscles or coronary arteries. 

We use cardiac cath to examine how well your heart is functioning. It lets us take a closer look at your heart to identify issues and perform other tests to assess your cardiac health further. We perform the following procedures in our cardiac cath lab in Nacogdoches, TX:

  • Percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) - minimally invasive procedures to unblock and rebuild clogged blood vessels.
  • Angiography (coronary arteriography) - a procedure that uses X-rays to examine the heart chambers or blood vessels. The images diagnose blockages and other problems in veins and arteries.
  • Fractional flow reserve (FFR) - measures blood flow and pressure through an artery to assess whether angioplasty or stenting is appropriate.
  • Intravascular ultrasound - uses sound waves to inspect blood vessels and examine coronary arteries. Physicians may also use intravascular ultrasound to place stents correctly.

What Is Cardiac Catheterization?

The cardiac catheterization procedure looks at the heart and its muscles, valves and arteries for any disease. During this procedure, a thin, long, flexible tube called a catheter will be inserted into a blood vessel in your groin, arm, or neck. Your heart doctor will thread the catheter through the blood vessels leading to your heart.

Upon reaching the heart, your doctor may perform coronary angiography by injecting a contrast dye into your coronary arteries to check your heart for blockage or narrowing. Some patients may qualify for a catheterization procedure instead of other more invasive surgeries to replace heart valves or repair cardiac defects. Here are different tests your doctor may perform in a cath lab:

  • Assess the cardiac chambers’ pumping ability
  • Check the pressure in the cardiac chambers
  • Perform minor heart surgery to treat congenital cardiac defects or narrowed heart valves
  • Evaluate the hemodynamics in the heart’s right and left side
  • Look for defects in heart valves
  • Perform biopsy by removing a small heart tissue piece for examination
  • Perform PCI
  • Take blood samples to measure the oxygen content in your heart’s chambers
  • Treat arrhythmias using catheter ablation

Specifically, cardiac catheterization aims to evaluate and treat the following conditions:

  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Congenital heart diseases
  • Heart failure
  • Left ventricular malfunction
  • Pericardial and myocardial diseases
  • Valvular heart disease

What Is Interventional Cardiology?

Interventional cardiology is a cardiology subspecialty that uses specialized diagnostic procedures to evaluate blood pressure and flow in the heart chambers and coronary arteries. The subspecialty also deals with medications and technical approaches to treat some cardiovascular conditions.

At Nacogdoches Medical Center, our interventional cardiologists work with licensed radiologists and registered nurses in our cardiac cath lab.

How Long Does a Heart Cath Take?

If your doctor only uses a cardiac catheter to examine your heart, a heart cath test may last up to 60 minutes. But if you need other heart procedures during cardiac catheterization, it may take longer. If the catheter passes through your groin, you have to lie flat on your back for several hours after catheterization to avoid bleeding.

Preparation for Cardiac Catheterization

If your doctor decides you need heart catheterization, you will undergo a physical examination to determine if cardiac catheterization is right for you. Your doctor will instruct you about what to eat and drink 24 hours before your appointment. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to anything, especially shellfish, X-ray dye, iodine, rubber or latex products, etc. Patients with documented previous allergies to contrast dye will need to take antihistamines and corticosteroids.

On the other hand, patients with kidney disease need adequate planning with their doctors and pre-hydration to reduce the risk of worsening kidney function. If you wear eyeglasses, you can bring them to your scheduled appointment. You can also wear a hearing aid during your procedure if you usually wear one. Have someone drive you home after your procedure.

What Happens During a Cardiac Catheterization?

A team of medical technicians and nurses assists an interventional cardiologist who will perform the heart cath procedure. A nurse will put an IV line into a vein in your arm where a sedative will pass through to help you relax. Even so, you will stay awake and able to follow your doctor’s instructions.

If the doctor decides that your catheter will go through the groin, a nurse will shave and sanitize this area. A local anesthetic may be applied to numb the puncture site. Depending on the procedure, the doctor may put various instruments at the catheter’s tip.

You may feel pressure in your groin as your doctor inserts a sheath (a small, straw-sized tube) and guides the catheter through your vessel. A video monitor shows the catheter’s position through the major blood vessels and the heart. After your procedure, the doctor will remove the sheath and catheter. A nurse will press the puncture site to prevent bleeding.

What Happens After Cardiac Catheterization?

After leaving a cardiac catheterization lab, you will rest in a recovery room for a few hours, lying flat on your back with your legs straight. Medical personnel will check your vital signs and apply pressure to the puncture site to stop it from bleeding. If you feel pain in your chest, report it to your doctor. If your puncture site swells, hurts or bleeds, report this also.

Before hospital discharge, your doctor will give you written instructions on what to do as you recover at home. Take your prescribed medications as indicated. Show up to follow-up appointments. Most patients can go back to their normal activities the next day.

A bruised puncture site is normal. If it bleeds, lie flat and press the site firmly for a few minutes before checking if the bleeding has stopped. Call your heart doctor if:

  • The leg with the puncture site tingles or feels numb, or your foot turns blue or feels cold
  • You observe worsening bruises around the puncture area
  • You feel swelling or see draining fluid from the puncture site
  • You experience shortness of breath or chest pain that does not subside with rest
  • You feel your pulse is too slow or too fast
  • You feel dizzy or exhausted
  • You cough up blood with green or yellow mucus
  • You have a fever or chills

If the puncture site bleeding does not subside even after pressing on it or if it swells up rapidly, call 911.

Caring for Your Heart

At Nacogdoches Medical Center, you can access various diagnostic and interventional procedures. Many lifesaving procedures can be performed in our cath lab. Cardiac catheterization procedures are less invasive with fewer complications than other surgical procedures. Let us take care of your heart health. Fill out a contact form, and we’ll call you to refer a doctor.

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