Proper treatment requires proper diagnosis -- Cardiac catheterization provides the most precise diagnosis currently possible in most cardiac conditions, particularly those diseases affecting the coronary arteries (Coronary artery disease). This procedure was initially performed (in a very limited fashion) in 1929. The first coronary angiograms were done in 1958. Overall, it is safe (although there are some risks involved) and well-tolerated. However, it also is scary to think about having your heart worked on, and most people who are told they need to have this procedure are understandably concerned.
The animation above illustrates a cardiac catheterization. In this example, the procedure is being done from the leg (in some circumstances, the procedure is done from the arm or wrist). The patient is generally sedated to some degree. Local anesthetic is used to numb the area over the blood vessels. The catheters are advanced through the large vessels to the heart with the aid of x-rays. Since the blood vessels do not have pain fibers, the catheters are not felt as they are moved through the blood vessels. Pressures are measured in various chambers of the heart. "Dye", more properly called contrast material, is injected into the blood vessels. This allows a picture to be made of the inside of the blood vessel with the aid of x-rays.
Press the "Tell Me More" button to learn more about this fascinating and useful procedure. You may also want to check out the links to other areas on HeartPoint which discuss the heart's function and anatomy for further insight and information.
©COPY;1997 HeartPoint Updated November 1998
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