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Angiogram Catheter Test

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A coronary angiogram catheter test or catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure which allows your physician to see on an x-ray screen whether you have blocked coronary arteries. Based on the findings, your doctor wil be able to determine the type of treatment necessary to assist in reducing the risk of coronary events. This procedure is often used after an angina attack and when your doctor wishes to see whether coronary angioplasty or bypass surgery is needed.

Catheterisation provides your medical team with vitally important information regarding the blood pressure within your heart and how well the heart’s chambers and valves are working. Most importantly it will allow your doctor to see where any narrowings or blockages in the coronary arteries are and how serious they are.

What happens during a coronary angiogram catheter test or catheterization?

angiogram catheterization

The test itself generally lasts between 20 to 60 minutes and is undertaken by a medical team including a doctor, a nurse, a technician and a radiographer. The test is normally carried out as a day hospital procedure, or amy be part of your treatment if you have been admitted to hospital as the result of unstable angina or heart attack.

During the process a catheter (a long thin plastic tube) is passed into a vein or artery in the groin. It is less common, but the catheter may in some instances be inserted in the arm or even wrist. A local anesthetic is given to the insertion area in order to avoid any pain. The catheter is then slowly inserted and guided along the artery towards the heart. The operator will be closely watching an x-ray screen that will guide her through the blood vessels until she reaches the heart. During this process you will not feel the tube being moved around, however you may notice the occasional loss or extra heart beat and may witness a short mild angina type pain. You will be awake and should notify the medical team of any pain or discomfort.

During the angiogram catheter test you will also be hooked up to an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) recorder which will constantly measure your heart rate and rhythm. Moreover, the blood pressure at the type of the catherter is also continuously checked.

How does the doctor see the state of your coronary arteries?

As mentioned earlier, the operator will be able to determine the extent of any narrowing or blockages to the coronary arteries. This is done by introducing a radioactive dye into the arteries though the catheter and the procedure is viewed on an x-ray screen similar to a televison. As the heart beats, the dye will allow the medical team to see the blood flow and/or blockages of the arteries.

Sometimes the dye may cause a hot flushing sensation for several moments and you will be warned of this possibility.

When the procedure is over, the catheter will be withdrawn back through the artery and removed then a nurse or doctor will apply pressure to the insertion point in the groin or arm for around 10 minutes to stop any bleeding. Alternatly, a type of seal called an angioplug may be used. Some people feel rather tired for a few hours after the test, however, this will soon pass. You groin or arm will be controlled several times after the test to see if there is any unwanted bleeding.

The coronary angiogram catheter test is generally safe procedure although complications may occur in about 1/1000 people. You will be advised of any risks.

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