What is a Cardiac Cath? Uncovering Your Heart’s Mysteries

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WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND HOW THINGS WORK AND know what to expect, you almost always feel more assured and comfortable. That’s certainly true when it comes to cardiac catheterization.

What is it?

During cardiac catheterization, a cardiologist inserts a tiny tube, called a catheter, into an artery or vein in your arm or leg. Using real-time imaging, your cardiologist guides the catheter all the way to your heart. Once in place, the physician can inject x-ray dye, called contrast, through the catheter to monitor and diagnose a heart condition, such as a blocked artery or valve.

“A tiny balloon catheter may be inflated to help open a blocked vessel, as well as to place a stent in a vessel to prevent future blockages,” adds Cameron Guild, MD, of Baptist Heart.

What should you expect?

During the procedure, you lie on your back and are kept awake so that you can comply with the doctor’s instructions. The area where the catheter is inserted will be numbed, and you’ll likely be given a mild sedative to help you relax.

“Those who have experienced the procedure rarely report significant pain or discomfort,” Dr. Guild says.

Sources: Heart.org, MedlinePlus.gov, NHLBI.NIH.gov

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