Tests & Procedures > Interventional Cardiology > Cardiac Catheterization & Angioplasty

Cardiac Catheterization & Angioplasty

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure that allows your doctor to effectively diagnose – and often treat – your heart problem.

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Heart, Vascular & Lung Care

Our cardiac catheterization labs are staffed with expert cardiologists, nurses, radiology x-ray technicians and cardiovascular technologists, all committed to providing patients with the highest quality care.

PinnacleHealth is one of just a few facilities on the East Coast that has earned the Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS) designation, which requires that every team member must become a board-certified Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist within two years of starting work in the lab.

Our labs are equipped with high-resolution video screens and x-ray machines that provide enlarged pictures of the blocked areas in patients’ coronary arteries, making data more accurate and accessible.

Cardiac Catheterization

Patients suspected of having a blockage or other issue within the arteries may require a diagnostic cardiac catheterization (also known as coronary angiogram). This allows cardiologists to visualize the arteries and blockages and gather more information in order to develop a treatment plan.

Symptoms that may indicate a need for a cardiac catheterization include:
  • Regular, ongoing chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Any combination of those symptoms
Patients with these symptoms, as well as those whose screening tests indicate that a blockage may exist, may require a cardiac catheterization.

Why would I need a cardiac catheterization?

Your healthcare provider may schedule you for a cardiac catheterization if you have recently had one or more episodes of cardiac symptoms or if a screening examination or test suggests that you have a disease that needs further exploration. This procedure is also used to evaluate blood flow to the heart after heart attack, heart bypass surgery, coronary angioplasty or stent placement.

There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend a cath procedure, such as:
  • Coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries caused by a buildup of fatty material within the walls of the arteries.
  • Valvular heart disease, when there is an issue with the valves of the heart
  • Heart failure, any condition in which the heart is weakened and does not pump blood properly
  • Congenital heart disease, any heart condition that is present at birth

What happens during the procedure?

The procedure begins with the placement of several monitoring patches on the patient’s chest, along with insertion of an IV to deliver medication and fluids during the procedure. Most patients receive a mild sedative prior to the procedure.

A small catheter is inserted into an artery or vein in the groin and then is advanced through the aorta into the heart. Once the catheter is in place, an opaque, iodine-based fluid is injected into the coronary vessels. This shows up on x-ray, which enables the doctor to see, locate and measure the blockages. Additional tests may be done to evaluate the pressure of your heart chambers and valves.

What is an angioplasty?

If a blockage is located, your cardiologist will perform an angioplasty. Your doctor will insert a soft wire, carrying a balloon and a stent, into the catheter and pass them to the blockage. Modern stents may be coated with medication that reduces the likelihood of your coronary artery from becoming blocked again.

Once the balloon has reached the narrowed section of your coronary artery, the cardiologist will inflate the balloon at high pressure. This pressure will crush the blockage against the walls of your artery. Once the narrowed area is pushed open, your doctor places the stent within the newly cleared area. The stent is expanded tightly against your artery wall to hold the artery open. The entire procedure usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.