Cardiac Catheterization and Angioplasty

A "heart attack", or myocardial infarction, is the result of an abrupt blockage in one of the coronary blood vessels which supply the heart. Blockage of the coronary arteries occurs as the direct result of the progressive effects of atherosclerosis. Any blockage of the coronary arteries can lead to a decrease in the blood supply to the heart causing chest discomfort (angina). The complete blockage of blood flow will result in death of the heart muscle, known as a heart attack.

To ascertain the severity of coronary artery disease, we may utilize cardiac catheterization. In this procedure, a contrast dye is injected into the coronary arteries allowing them to become visible on conventional x-ray. To introduce the contrast dye into the artery, a long catheter is threaded through the main arterial conduit starting at the groin. The procedure is performed using a local anesthetic. X-rays are taken as the dye passes through the vessels, clearly indicating any narrowing or blockage that exists. The resulting x-ray, describes the type of anatomy and degree of coronary artery disease.

This test will allow the physician to formulate the best treatment plan for the patient. Cardiac catheterization can also give information on the presence of congenital heart disease, heart valve function, and the overall ability of the heart walls to contract. Cardiac catheterization is performed only by a qualified Cardiologist.

* CORONARY ANGIOPLASTY (PTCA): In this procedure, a special balloon-tipped catheter is used in the same catheterization procedure described above. The balloon is inflated in areas of vessel narrowing, opening up the diseased vessel, and allowing the return of blood flow. Through this technique, many patients have had portions of their heart salvaged that would normally have been irreversibly destroyed through myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Angioplasty is only performed by the qualified Cardiologist.

***** REMEMBER *****

1. Some risk of allergy to the injected contrast exists, although this is uncommon.

2. Risk of heart attack as the direct result of the catheterization is 1 in 100.

3. Risk of death is approximately 1 in 4,000.

4. Risk of coronary artery rupture with the angioplasty catheter is rare.

5. Less serious and more common complications seen are: pain, swelling, tenderness, or thrombophlebitis at catheter insertion site. Warm compresses are usually effective in the treatment of these symptoms.

6. Radiation exposure is judged as medium compared to other diagnostic x-ray tests.


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