This is a procedure used to diagnose and treat certain heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease. A long, thin tube called a catheter is inserted into blood vessels in your arm or groin and advanced to the heart. Dye is injected through the catheter into the heart and the blood vessels of the heart and x-ray images are taken. These images can show if there is narrowing or blockage of any of the arteries of the heart. Plaque build-up within these vessels can restrict blood flow to the heart causing chest pain, heart attacks, and damage to the heart muscle.
Cardiac catheterization is performed in the hospital. You are awake for the procedure, usually under light sedation. There is little to no pain during this procedure. Some soreness at the site of catheter insertion for several days afterwards is normal. Serious complications can occur, but are uncommon. Some degree of bruising and bleeding is the most common complication.
Who Needs a Cardiac Catheterization?
This procedure is performed to diagnose and treat many different heart conditions, though the most common indication is to evaluate chest pain. You may be referred for this procedure if you have a heart attack causing damage to the heart, have recovered from a heart attack but are experiencing chest pain, or have had a EKG or stress test suggesting coronary artery disease. Cardiac catheterization is commonly ordered to evaluate valvular heart disease and prior to heart surgery.
Additional information regarding this procedure can be found here:
Transradial Cardiac Catheterization
What is the big deal?
Traditionally cardiac catheterization has been done through the femoral artery (entering at the level of the groin) to pass catheters up to the heart. Transradial catheterization is a more recently developed technique which uses the radial artery, entering the artery in the wrist instead of the groin. This technique has several advantages – It has been shown in multiple clinical trials to reduce the risk of bleeding and vascular complications from the procedure comparing to access through the groin. There is also a lower risk of death if done for an acute heart attack, proven in recent clinical trials (due to the lower rates of bleeding complications). This is also more comfortable for patients, allowing you to stand and walk immediately after the procedure – No more lying flat in bed after your cath!