Cardiac catheterization is often referred to as coronary angiography or a coronary angiogram. It is a radiographic procedure that is used to look at and visualize the heart and the coronary arteries. During a cardiac catheterization it is possible for the cardiologist performing the procedure to see how effectively blood is flowing through the coronary arteries. In addition, this procedure allows the cardiologists to see how blood is moving through the chambers of the heart and how effective the heart valves are functioning. A cardiac catheterization can also allow for the visualization of the movement of the walls of the heart to see if the pumping action of the heart is normal.
The primary application of cardiac catheterization is to determine if there is the presence of coronary artery disease. If there is occlusion of the coronary arteries this is the result of atherosclerosis, or plaque build up within the coronary arteries. During a cardiac catheterization it is possible for the physician to identify the location and size of these plaque deposits. The presence of plaque within the coronary arteries can lead to a myocardial infarction; therefore, if the plaque buildup is substantial, therapeutic action has to be taken. This treatment may include coronary bypass surgery if the coronary artery disease is widespread and or the arteries are occluded to a large degree. A large number of patients who do have coronary artery disease are treated in the cardiac cath lab during the catheterization with procedures such as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and angioplasty with stenting and artherectomy.
Angioplasty is performed by inserting a catheter into the coronary artery that is blocked. The catheter has balloon that can be inflated where the blockage is present. The pressure from the inflated balloon will force the plaque to the sides of the coronary artery. This will allow the artery to open and allow for increased blood flow through that branch of...
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