Looking into your Heart - Catheterization: March 29, 2013

Sometime it's necessary to evaluate the heart for complex blood pressure problems, blood oxygen supply, or blood vessel disease. When doctors look into your heart many times they will do it through cardiac catheterization.

“Catheterization can be used both for diagnostic, that is taking pictures to make a definitive diagnostic, but also can be used for angioplasty or putting in coronary artery stents,” says Dr. Richard Chazal, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

A long, thin, flexible tube is inserted into a blood vessel. Sometimes a dye is injected into the tube, so that blockages and buildup will show up on x-rays. Traditionally, most were fed through the groin.

“That’s the technique that most of use became comfortable with. Because that artery was larger and felt to be safer,” says Dr. Chazal.

Advancements in equipment that made catheters smaller opened up a new direction. Today, many doctors find a benefit of going through a small artery in the wrist. They can accomplish the same goals with less trauma.

“Some studies have looked at the bleeding risk, utilizing that approach and in centers where there’s a lot of experience with this, they can actually reduce the risk of bleeding because the artery is closer to the surface and it’s a little easier for the staff to help secure and make certain that any bleeding has stopped, as apposed to a deeper artery in the leg,” says Dr. Chazal.

A heart catheterization is typically done under local anesthesia, so patients are conscious. The procedure may answer questions or eliminate the need for major surgery. It may also pinpoint serious conditions that will direct future treatment. Any way you look at it, it gets to the heart of the matter.