Angiogram or Heart Cath
If your cardiologist has recommended a heart catheterization (or angiogram) at your last visit, he/she would like to better assess the condition of your coronary arteries. More specifically, he/she wants to determine if your heart is receiving a sufficient amount of blood. This outpatient procedure is a very useful and safe method of not only improving heart function that may decrease with time but also preventing a future heart attack that may come as a result of narrowed coronary arteries.
Over time, the coronary arteries that are responsible for supplying the heart with oxygen rich blood can become narrowed due to plaque buildup. This build up comes from the foods we eat and can become worst with diets high in fat. When this plaque builds up on the side of the arteries, two things can happen. One, plaque will completely close off the circulation of blood flow to a specific region of the heart. The second, the plaque that formed on the artery walls will become loose and travel down the artery until it comes to a stop point within the heart muscle. In both cases, parts of the heart will have tissue that dies as a result of not receiving oxygenated blood. This is what is known as a heart attack (or myocardial infarction).
A heart catheterization is performed by inserting a catheter through your groin and into the femoral artery. This artery branches off from the abdominal aorta and supplies blood to the lower limbs. By guiding this catheter up your aorta and into the coronary vessels of the heart, doctors can determine if there are any circulatory constrictions.
During this procedure, if your cardiologist feels the need for coronary intervention, he or she will deploy a metal stent that will restore diminished blood flow. The stent works by increasing the vessel diameter which in turn allows more blood to circulate efficiently. The permanently affixed stent inside the vessel is completely painless for the patient and there are no precautionary measures that need to be taken on the patient’s part thereafter.
Once you and your physician have agreed to go through with an angiogram, your cardiologist office will schedule this outpatient appointment for you based on your availability. There are no special instructions leading up to the day of your procedure. Medications, including blood thinners if prescribed, are to be taken as normally. Upon arrival at the hospital, you will be prepped and have a few minutes to go over expectations with your doctor and nursing staff. Your procedure should only take about 45 minutes with or without stent deployment. After your procedure has been completed, you should expect to stay in the hospital a few hours for observation. This is a just a precautionary measure taken to make sure that you are in stable health before releasing you back home. Once you have been released from the hospital, refrain from doing any kind of heavy lifting for a minimum of at least three days. This will prevent any injury to the groin entry site of the heart catheterization.