Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure that allows your doctor to effectively diagnose – and often treat – your heart problem.
Why choose UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute for your cardiac catheterization and angioplasty/stenting?
When you choose UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute for your cardiac catheterization, you will receive expert care from some of the region's most experienced cardiologists who diagnose and treat all types of blockages and other problems with the coronary arteries.
Our physicians perform hundreds of cardiac catheterization procedures each year. In many cases, your condition can be successfully treated during your cardiac catheterization using the latest angioplasty/stenting techniques and devices. We have cath labs in six of our hospitals throughout central Pennsylvania.
What is cardiac catheterization?
Cardiac catheterization, also known as coronary angiogram, is a diagnostic procedure that allows your cardiologist to see blockages, blood flow, and other problems within the arteries leading to your heart.
What happens during cardiac catheterization?
Before your cardiac catheterization, several monitoring patches will be placed on your chest and you will receive an IV to deliver medication and fluids during the procedure. Most patients will receive a mild sedative prior to the procedure.
A small catheter will then be inserted into an artery or vein through your groin or wrist, and guided through your aorta into your heart. After the catheter is in place, an opaque, iodine-based fluid will be injected into your coronary blood vessels. This special fluid will show up on an x-ray, which will enable your doctor to see, locate, and measure blockages and other problems in your arteries. Additional tests may be done to evaluate the pressure in your heart chambers and valves.
What is an angioplasty/stenting?
If your doctor finds a blockage during your cardiac catheterization, he or she will perform an angioplasty to remove the blockage. Your doctor will insert a soft wire carrying a balloon and a stent into the catheter and pass them to the site of the blockage. Some stents may be coated with medication that reduces the likelihood that your coronary artery will become blocked again.
After the balloon has reached the narrowed section of your coronary artery, your cardiologist will inflate the balloon at high pressure. This pressure will crush the blockage against the walls of your artery. After the narrowed area is pushed open, your doctor will place a stent within the newly cleared area. The stent is expanded tightly against your artery wall to hold your artery open. The entire procedure usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.
What can I expect after cardiac catheterization?
After the catheters are removed, your medical team will apply pressure to the insertion site for several minutes to help stop the bleeding. If your catheter was inserted through your groin, you must remain lying down for 4-6 hours and refrain from moving the limb where the catheter was inserted. If your catheter was inserted through your wrist, you may be able to move around sooner. Your medical team will need to monitor your blood pressure and check the insertion site frequently, so you will need to remain in the hospital for several hours, or possibly overnight. It is very important that you follow your discharge instructions and take good care of your insertion site to prevent complications.
How long does it take to recover after cardiac catheterization?
Talk to your doctor about when you can resume normal activities or return to work. You may be instructed not to drive for a certain amount of time after the procedure, so you may need to arrange for someone to drive you home. It also is very important that you see your doctor for follow-up visits as recommended. You should call your doctor if you are experiencing any unusual symptoms, including:
- Pain, redness, bleeding, drainage, or increased swelling at the insertion site
- Pain or burning in your chest
- Rapid or pounding heartbeat
- Severe pain, coldness, numbness, or discoloration in the limb where the catheter was inserted
- A fever of more than 100.0°F
- New or increasing shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing, throat pain, or bloody cough
- Redness or rash on your chest or back
If any of these symptoms are severe, you should dial 911 immediately.
Need more information?
Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Practices
Cumberland/Dauphin/Franklin/Perry Counties: 717-731-0101
Pediatric : 717-761-0200
Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery: 717-231-8555
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