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Undergoing Cardiac Catheterisation

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 2 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Cardiac Catheterisation Catheter Guide

Cardiac catheterisation is a procedure developed to allow specialists to examine the structures of the heart and its surrounding vessels in a more detailed way.

What is Involved in the Procedure?

Cardiac catheterisation is mainly performed as a diagnostic tool allowing the specialist to make an accurate diagnosis of your heart condition. Occasionally this procedure will be followed by or carried out alongside other operations.If you are receiving this treatment purely as a diagnostic procedure it will normally be done as a day case.

You will normally be asked to lie on your back on an examination trolley whilst under an x-ray machine. After monitors that will record your vital signs are attached, the x-rays will be used as a guide as the physician will insert a very fine guide wire and catheter into a blood vessel, normally located on the arm, leg or groin, and will pass the wire through the vessels until it reaches the heart.

Depending on what the test is for will determine what happens next.For a detailed look at the structure of the vessels a dye will be injected that can be seen on the x-ray. This will highlight any areas for concern and give the physician the exact location within the anatomy of the damage allowing for accurate planning of further treatments that may be needed.

If the test is used to discover the overall function and ability of the heart, the tip of the catheter can record internal pressures, allowing the physician to see what parts of the actual heart are damaged to what degree and if the valves within the heart are working correctly.

Sometimes an operative procedure will be carried out alongside the catheterisation, such as dilating a narrowed vessel using a balloon device that can be passed down the catheter. Alternatively, any areas that are causing damage and are not essential can be destroyed using an ablative technique.

When the procedure is over, the catheter is withdrawn and pressure will be applied at the site of application until any bleeding has subsided.A dressing will be placed over the incision and you will be monitored until the staff are happy for you to go home.

Possible Side-Effects

Many patients will feel highly anxious about the procedure even though it is relatively safe and should not cause too much discomfort. Because of this the doctor or nurse may offer you some sedation whilst the test is carried out. This sedation may cause ‘grogginess’ and dizziness and you will be unable to return home as quickly as those who do not receive the sedatives.

You may experience localised pain around the site of incision during and after the procedure; this will subside eventually.Bruising is normal to the site following the test, especially if you normally take medications designed to thin the blood.

Allergic reactions to the dye, if used, have been recorded, though are rare. The staff will be monitoring your progress for signs of this and will treat if necessary.

Serious side effects are extremely rare but can include angina, heart attack, stroke or puncture of one of the vessels. Again staff will be monitoring you very closely for signs of these occurrences and will treat if needed.

Cardiac catheterisation is a very useful tool for achieving an accurate diagnosis of cardiac conditions. It can help the physicians plan the most appropriate treatment plan for your needs.

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