During cardiac catheterization, the physician inserts a thin plastic tube (catheter) into an artery or vein in the patient’s arm or leg, and advances it into the heart or coronary arteries.
This can be a diagnostic procedure, used by the physician to gather important diagnostic information. For example, the test can measure blood pressure in the heart, measure the amount of oxygen that is in the blood, and learn more about the heart’s pumping ability.
The physician can also use a catheter to inject dye into the bloodstream to evaluate damage to the arteries. This is called coronary angiography or coronary arteriography.
Catheterization procedures are considered interventional when they are used to treat certain heart conditions, such as a blocked coronary artery.
For example, catheters with a balloon on the tip can be used to open a blocked coronary artery in a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which is also referred to as angioplasty.
Once the artery is open, the physician can deliver a device called a stent through the catheter and place it in the artery to keep it open.
These and other interventional procedures have become increasingly common methods of treating coronary artery disease.
Both diagnostic and interventional catheterization procedures may be used to evaluate and treat congenital heart defects in infants and children.
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