Cardiac Catheterization Could Save Your Life
With the help of our highly-experienced cardiology staff, Uniontown Hospital has developed one of the most sophisticated Cardiac Catheterization laboratories in Western Pennsylvania. And it's all designed to help us get answers so we can help you get the finest treatment available. What is Cardiac Catheterization?
Cardiac catheterization is a term used to describe several high-tech
procedures that a doctor uses to diagnose heart disease and disorders. If your doctor recommends catheterization, here's what you can expect:
The doctor inserts a very thin tube, or catheter, into an artery in your arm or groin. The doctor then threads the catheter through a vessel directly into the heart. Using specialized equipment, he or she can perform this procedure with a minimum of discomfort and without having to admit you to a hospital.
Angiography is a diagnostic procedure that uses catheterization, along with high-tech digital radiography, to show your doctor very detailed images of the heart and any blockages you may have. A dye is injected through the catheter and, using digital fluoroscopy equipment, your cardiologist can see your entire coronary and artery system. This digital image can then be interpreted by the invasive cardiologist performing the procedure.
The angiogram will ultimately show the extent of disease in the coronary arteries and allow the cardiologist to evaluate each situation carefully and make the appropriate decisions for treatment. Options may include medication, balloon angioplasty or surgery.
Chest pain, valvular heart disease (as determined by previous testing), heart attacks or a suspicion of coronary artery disease are the usual prerequisites for receiving angiography. The entire procedure takes less than an hour, and requires only local anesthetic and sedation. Outpatients may even return home the same day.
Since the early 1980's, angioplasty (or "balloon angioplasty") has been used to clear life-threatening blockages in the arteries which lead to the heart.
Angioplasty is a non-surgical technique that can reduce the damage caused by years of accumulated fat, cholesterol deposits or calcium build-up.
It is the most common way to open arteries without the trauma of bypass surgery. It costs a lot less, too - about half the cost of bypass surgery. And the best thing about it is that it takes just minutes.
In traditional angioplasty, a catheter is inserted into an artery in your arm or leg and maneuvered to the site of the blockage. Then, a tiny balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated against the blockage to compress build-up and widen the artery.
Sometimes, a patient's heart cannot withstand this procedure or has a more severe form of arthrosclerosis. In these cases, other highly specialized techniques - such as laser catheters or atherectomy (rotating catheters) - may be suggested as an alternative to bypass surgery to keep the heart amply supplied with blood and prevent it from closing up.
Angioplasty is often recommended for people who have suffered a heart attack, who are at high risk for a heart attack because of blocked arteries or who cannot undergo bypass surgery. Of course, like any procedure, angioplasty does have certain side effects, which you should discuss with your cardiologist. And although this procedure is highly effective, it is definitely not a substitute for leading a healthier lifestyle.
Stents: Beyond the Balloon
A cardiac stent is a stainless steel wire tube that is implanted at the site of an artery narrowing or blockage in a coronary artery to keep the artery from closing.
About 11 percent of people who undergo balloon angioplasty will experience a collapsed artery during or shortly after the procedure. Inserting the stent at this time may make emergency bypass surgery unnecessary. Also, the cardiologist may observe symptoms in some patients during angioplasty that indicates an artery is about to close. These patients may also receive a stent.
A stent is attached to a standard angioplasty balloon catheter. When the catheter is in place, the balloon is inflated and the stent expands with the balloon, leaving the stent attached to the artery wall. If necessary, more than one stent can be positioned within the artery. After weeks, the stent becomes entirely covered with tissue, securing it to the artery wall. Return to LEARN MORE