Heart Catheterization Procedures
Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to test and treat your heart and its blood vessels. Choose the board-certified interventional cardiologists at UNC Health Caldwell for expertise in this type of care.
What Happens During Heart Catheterization?
In a special room called a catheterization lab, a doctor slides a thin, flexible tube called a catheter and other tiny medical tools into an artery. Using a special X-ray machine to see inside your blood vessels, the doctor threads the catheter up to your heart. Then, the cardiologist looks for or treats heart problems.
Usually, the doctor inserts the catheter into an artery in your upper thigh. But if possible, the cardiologist will go through a wrist artery. This approach, called radial access, speeds your recovery.
Types of Procedures
Depending on your needs, your doctor may recommend one of these heart catheterization procedures.
During a coronary angiogram, a cardiologist injects contrast dye through the catheter and into your blood vessels. The dye appears on the X-ray machine as it flows through your heart arteries. Your doctor uses this test to find clogged spots in an artery and see how severe they are.
Coronary Angioplasty & Stenting
Angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), opens a heart artery clogged by plaque (fat). Your cardiologist attaches a tiny balloon to the catheter and threads it up to the blockage. Then, the balloon inflates and pushes the plaque against the artery wall. The doctor also places a tiny stent (metal-mesh tube) in the artery to keep the blood vessel open.
This treatment lets blood flow freely again to your heart and can stop a heart attack or chest pain (angina).
ICD or Pacemaker Implantation
If you have severe arrhythmia, you may need an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker to make your heart beat steadily. During implantation, your doctor slides one or two wires into a vein and threads them up to the heart. The wires connect to the ICD or pacemaker that the doctor places under your skin.