The Mercy Health Partners Regional Heart & Vascular Institute cardiac catheterization team consists of a cardiologist with specific training in catheterization and specially trained nurses and technicians. Our caring team of professionals has been performing heart catheterizations for more than 20 years. These procedures are performed using state-of-the-art technology in the catheterization lab at Mercy Hospital.
This information has been prepared for patients — and families of those patients — who are having heart catheterizations through the MHP Regional Heart & Vascular Institute.
How Does Your Heart Work?
The healthy adult heart is usually about the size of a man’s closed fist. The heart muscle, located in your chest, is protected by your sternum (breast bone) and rib cage.
The heart pumps blood to all parts of the body through blood vessels called arteries and veins. The movement of the blood throughout the body is called circulation.
Oxygen is added to the blood as it passes through the lungs. Arteries carry blood filled with oxygen and other nutrients to feed the body; veins carry the “used” blood back to the heart. The heart sends the blood back to the lungs through the pulmonary arteries and the cycle begins again.
The rhythmical throbbing of arteries caused when the heart contracts is called the pulse. We can learn how many times the heart beats (pumps) each minute by counting the pulse.
What is a Heart Catheterization?
A heart catheterization is performed by directing a long thin tube (catheter) through the blood vessels to the heart. Special X-ray equipment is used as a contrast medium (dye) is injected through the catheter to allow the cardiologist to obtain the necessary information.
What Information May Be Obtained from a Heart Catheterization?
A heart catheterization can provide information that is essential to evaluate and recommend treatment for you, such as:
- The existence and severity of blockages in the coronary arteries
- How well the main pumping chamber of the heart is working
- The condition of the heart valves
- The extent of any congenital abnormalities
- The need for bypass surgery, angioplasty, atherectomy or stent
How is Heart Catheterization Performed?
A catheter may be inserted in either the arm or in the groin — a decision which will be made by your cardiologist. The selected insertion site will be shaved and washed. Sterile covers will be placed over you. You may receive a mild sedative.
You will receive a local anesthetic to numb the area where the catheter will be inserted. If the entry site is to be in your arm, the cardiologist will make a small incision in the skin. If the groin will be the entry site, a small puncture is made through the skin into the blood vessel, and an introducer will be inserted.
Contrast medium (dye that will soon show up on an X-ray) will be injected through a catheter. (You will not feel the catheter in the blood vessel). Sometimes a person may be sensitive or allergic to the dye. To relieve possible allergy symptoms, an IV will be used to administer antiallergy medication before the test. A heart catheterization is a test performed by a cardiologist — a physician who is specially trained to diagnose and treat heart problems. This test can reveal information about how the heart works, the blood supply to the heart and the heart valves that keep the blood flowing in one direction.
At times, the doctor may ask you to cough, take a deep breath or to turn your head to one side. We will need your cooperation, but do not hesitate to ask any questions.
You may experience extra heartbeats (palpitations) during the procedure. These can be caused by the catheter and are only temporary. A hot, flushed feeling will come over you for about 15 seconds, once or twice, as the dye is injected into the pumping chamber. Your doctor will tell you when this is going to happen so you won’t be alarmed.
The catheterization will last about one hour.
How Will I Be Informed of the Results?
Your cardiologist will carefully review all the information from your test, discuss your situation with your family doctor, and send a complete written report with recommendations for treatment to him or her.
Having a heart catheterization does not always mean that you will need heart surgery or angioplasty. It does help your physician decide the best treatment for you.
- Some patients are found to have normal coronary arteries. Their symptoms may not be caused by their hearts.
- In many situations, your cardiologist may adjust medications and suggest lifestyle changes.
- In some cases, balloon angioplasty, atherectomy or stent may be a preferred treatment.
- Heart surgery may be recommended to create by-passes around narrowings in the arteries or to correct defective valves.
If surgical treatment is recommended, we will arrange to have your results forwarded to one of the MHP Regional Heart & Vascular Institute heart surgeons or to the surgeon of your choice.