Cath (catheterization) Lab
Cardiac catheterization is a specialized x-ray examination that uses “live” digital images of your coronary arteries and the pumping chambers of the heart to diagnose heart disease.
How does it work?
The arteries of the heart can’t be seen with regular x-rays. To see them, a tiny plastic tube is threaded from the groin to the entrance of a coronary artery. A special x-ray dye is injected into the artery so it can be seen. High speed x-rays are taken at the same moment the dye is injected into each artery.
Why do cardiac catheterization?
To see if one or more of the arteries that supply blood to the heart is narrowed or blocked. Blocked arteries can be opened quickly, using a variety of methods. Your cardiologist can:
- Use a catheter with a balloon on the tip to try to open the blockage (angioplasty)
- Place a wire mesh device called a stent at the site of the blockage to help ensure increased blood flow through the artery
What are the benefits?
A heart attack can be prevented or stopped in progress, saving the heart muscle from life-threatening damage.
Is it safe?
Complications occur in fewer than 1 in 200 cases. They include tearing of the artery wall, allergic reactions to the x-ray dye, heart attack, stroke and, in extreme cases, death. The benefits of this exam often greatly outweigh the risks.
What are the limitations?
Sometimes arteries are so severely blocked that it would not be safe to put balloons or stents into them. These patients are referred to a heart surgeon for possible heart bypass graft surgery. Cardiac catheterization can provide the surgeon with a “roadmap” of the arteries, showing the surgeon where to bypass the blocked artery.
How soon will you know the test results?
The cardiologist will know if there are any blockages in your arteries immediately after the procedure. Later in the day your cardiologist will explain the results of your test in greater detail, and discuss treatment options with you.