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Heart catheterization

Treating blockages in your heart's arteries

Heart catheterization, used both to diagnose and treat blockages, takes place in catheterization labs. A small incision is made in the groin and a flexible, thin catheter is threaded up to the heart. A scope can be used to view the heart on a monitor.

In some cases the catheterization procedure reveals that fatty deposits known as plaques have collected along the walls of a patient's arteries, narrowing the arteries and making it difficult for blood to pass through. If a blockage is discovered, the physician may make a repair with balloon angioplasty, or by placing a stent.

  • Angioplasty: During an angioplasty procedure, a catheter with a small balloon at the tip is advanced into the artery with blockage. When the catheter reaches the narrowed area, the balloon is inflated. This stretches the artery and flattens the fatty deposits against the artery's walls increasing blood flow.
  • Stent: A stent is a small device that is placed in a coronary artery to keep it open. It is a permanent implant that remains in the artery. By keeping the artery open, the stent improves blood flow and relieves symptoms of coronary heart disease.
  • Drug eluding stent: Just like a normal stent, this is a small device that is placed in an artery to keep it open. This stent also contains medication that prevents the regrowth of fatty deposits or plaques along the artery walls, in turn keeping the artery open for blood to pass. It is a permanent implant that remains in the artery.

The entire catheterization procedure normally takes only an hour or two.

When catheterization is used to find and treat blockages in blood vessels located away from the heart, the process is known as peripheral vascular catheterization.

Benefits of the catheterization procedure

  • Allows physicians to assess how well heart is pumping
  • Assists physicians in locating and treating blockages in coronary arteries
  • Shows physicians the function of heart valves
  • May be used to assess and treat blockages in leg arteries

Heart catheterization labs are available at these Via Christi location: