Cardiac catheterization utilizes a small plastic tube, called a catheter, which is inserted into a vein or artery and gradually moved to the heart. The catheter, which is usually inserted in the groin or arm, is inserted after the entrance region has been cleansed and numbed. Patients are commonly awake, but mildly sedated.
Once inside the heart, x-rays are taken of these vessels, and various cardiac functions are studied. If needed, a number of specialized treatments can be performed simultaneously.
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Primary uses of cardiac catheterization include:
- Angiography (or angiogram): This diagnostic test utilizes dye, injected through the catheter, enabling the images of the coronary arteries to be displayed on a monitor. These images reveal the size and location of any blockages and can help measure the pumping ability of the heart.
- Non-Surgical Intervention: This is a procedure used to remove blockages from arteries, restoring proper blood flow to the heart. Non-surgical interventions include angioplasty, emergency coronary angioplasty, and stent implantation.
Heart rate, rhythm, and blood pressure are closely monitored throughout these tests. The procedures are relatively pain free, and usually last between 30 minutes and two hours. Recovery is fairly rapid from these procedures, and patients are usually released the same day or the following day. More significant interventions may require longer hospital stays as directed by your cardiologist.