Cardiac catheterization is a medical procedure by which a small tube (catheter) about 2-3 millimeters in size is inserted into an artery or vein in the groin or wrist. The catheter is then threaded through the major blood vessels to the chambers of the heart. It is a method used primarily for the diagnosis and treatment of coronary artery disease. This does not mean, however, that endovascular catheterization can be performed only on the heart, as it can also be used in blood vessels all throughout the body, including in the arms, legs, brain or kidneys. It can aid in the treatment of a variety of diseases, such as coronary artery disease, renal artery stenosis, intracranial artery stenosis, abdominal aortic aneurysms, etc. It can also be used to replace or repair the heart valve without the need for surgery and to repair heart valve regurgitation.
In addition to the coronary arteries, there are arteries in many other parts of the body that can become blocked or obstructed. Peripheral arterial disease is usually caused by a buildup of fat, cholesterol or calcium on the inner walls of the arteries to the point of inflammation. Over time, as this plaque accumulates, it hardens and narrows the arteries. This process is a disease called atherosclerosis. When the arteries are blocked or obstructed, this limits the flow of blood to the body and there is insufficient blood supply to the organs and extremities supplied by the peripheral arteries. This disease is most commonly found in elderly patients, and risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Complications include those such as Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), for which treatment involves a method for arterial expansion using an inflatable balloon known as angioplasty. It is similar to the treatment used for coronary artery disease, and is considered a great choice for the treatment of patients with peripheral arterial disease.
Many of you may be concerned about the fears and frustrations involved in undergoing a procedure like this. In reality, however, the procedure is not as scary or complicated as you might think. Once your doctor has determined that the patient needs to undergo an endovascular catheterization procedure, the patient will then prepare as if they were going to be having traditional surgery; that is, abstaining from food and drinks for at least 6 hours before the procedure. In general, patients will not have to take a sedative. From there, a small puncture is made with a needle, and a small tube, about the size of a pencil lead, is inserted. Next, the tiny catheter is threaded through the arteries to whatever part of the body is in need of treatment. It takes about 1-2 hours to complete the procedure and the patient will have only a small puncture wound of about 1.6 mm, which should close in just 6-8 hours. Patients will be admitted to the hospital for a period of only one day for observation and monitoring of their symptoms. If there are no complications, the patient will then be able to return home.
It can safely be said that this is a technique that provides patients with a better quality of life, involving minimal pain, small incisions, short recovery time, and a success rate of more than 90%.