Cardiac catheterization is a frequently used and reliable diagnostic test that allows a physician to observe a functioning heart. It is most often used to evaluate coronary artery disease, as well as valvular, congenital, and primary myocardial diseases.
During cardiac catheterization, a long, narrow flexible tube or catheter is inserted into an artery in the upper thigh near the groin area. While the physician monitors the patient's progress on an x-ray screen, the tube is gently fed through the artery up into the heart. An iodine dye is injected, which outlines the heart chambers and blood vessels.
Cardiac catheterization is not only a valuable diagnostic procedure; it can be used to treat certain problems. For example, if a blood clot is present, medication can be dispensed to break up the clot. Also, a balloon catheter may be inserted into an artery and then inflated so that the artery expands and blood flows more easily.
The test is performed in the cath lab. The patient receives a sedative before the test begins and an injection of local anesthesia at the site of the incision. There may be a sensation of pressure as the catheter is inserted, but there should be no pain.
The entire procedure takes about 1 ½ hours. Most patients are able to resume light activity within 4-8 hours and eat as soon as they want to. It is usually necessary to take it easy for a few days after a catheterization.
Among diagnostic tests, cardiac catheterization has proven to be extremely effective and safe procedure that is instrumental in diagnosing and even treating heart problems.