Cardiac catheterization is an X-ray procedure used to evaluate the condition of the heart and coronary arteries to help detect heart disease at an early stage. Dr. Michael Stauder and Dr. Benjamin Prentiss perform these procedures at the state of the art cardiac catheterization lab located at UMass Memorial Medical Center and St .Vincent's in Worcester.

Cardiac catheterization is not a surgical procedure. A small plastic tube, or catheter, is inserted into an artery or vein in the leg or arm and guided through blood vessels to the heart. X-ray pictures allow the doctor to watch the catheter as it is being guided and there is usually little or no discomfort to the patient. Heart pressures are then measured and x-ray dye is used to take pictures of the heart.

Our skilled physicians use the most advanced technology to treat patients, allowing physicians to see the vessels and anatomy of the heart, as well as the finest vessels all the way to the fingertips. As a result, physicians see clearly inside a patient while guiding stents, catheters and other medical devices to areas of the body needing treatment.

Procedures include:

  • Atrial septal defect/patent foramen ovale closure
  • Balloon aortic and mitral vavuloplasty
  • Coronary angioplasty
  • Coronary atherectomy
  • Coronary stent placement
  • Intravascular ultrasound
  • Renal artery stenting

Atrial septal defect/patent foramen ovale closure is a catheter procedure used to position a device that closes a hole in the heart wall. The device is moved through a catheter to the location of the heart wall defect where it remains permanently to stop the abnormal flow of blood between the two atrial chambers of the heart.

Balloon aortic and mitral vavuloplasty is the insertion of a balloon catheter into the heart and across the narrowed valve. When in place, the balloon is expanded to open the valve.

Coronary angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention, is used to open clogged heart arteries to improve some of the symptoms associated with blocked arteries, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. It is also used to treat heart attack patients by quickly opening a blocked artery to help minimize heart damage. The procedure involves temporarily inserting and expanding a tiny balloon at the site of the blockage to help widen an artery.

Coronary atherectomy is done in conjunction with angioplasty. In this procedure the blocked area inside the artery is "shaved" away by a tiny device on the end of a catheter.

Coronary stent placement involves a small metal coil inserted into the artery to prevent the opening from narrowing again.

Intravascular ultrasound involves high-frequency sound waves to create images of the heart and arteries. The tiny ultrasound camera is attached to the tip of a flexible catheter and provides detailed images of both heart structure and function.

Renal artery stenting relieves the narrowing of the artery and restores blood flow to the leg.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cardiac Catheterization

What happens during a cardiac catheterization procedure?
The Cardiac Cath Lab is filled with heart monitors and blood pressure machines to monitor the patient's heart throughout the test. The patient is given an anesthetic to numb the area where the catheter is inserted. A small incision is made in the skin on one or both of the legs. This may be mildly uncomfortable. The physician identifies the artery where the catheter is to be inserted, and the catheter is gently threaded through the artery and, guided by x-rays, into the heart. There should be no pain.

What happens after a cardiac catheterization procedure?
If the patient only has a diagnostic procedure, he/she is most likely able to go home the same day. If an intervention is done, an overnight stay is frequently required.
After the test, the catheter and IV are removed. For a few hours rest is required until the sedative wears off. The nursing team continues to monitor heart rate and blood pressure, and regularly checks the place where the catheter was inserted. After rest, the patient is able to go home.

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