Heart Catheterization                    
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Heart Catheterization
Electro. Studies

Heart Catheterization with intravascular ultrasound and flow studies

Before discussing cardiac catheterization, one needs to understand how the heart works.

The heart is a muscular, hollow organ that constantly pumps blood throughout the body. It has four chambers.  The upper chambers (atria) collect blood while the lower chambers (ventricles) pump the blood.  Between the four chambers are valves which control the flow of blood within the heart.  In order to keep pumping blood, the heart must have a continuous supply of oxygen. The coronary arteries are the vessels which supply the oxygen. These vessels travel on the outer surface of the heart and divide into smaller branches which penetrate into the heart muscle.

Heart catheterization is an x-ray test which allows doctors to diagnose a number of cardiac conditions: congenital heart defects (defects present at birth which may not be discovered until later in life as well), defective heart valves (narrowed or leaking), and coronary artery disease. The inside walls of arteries are normally smooth and flexible, allowing blood to flow through them easily. These may become plugged with fatty deposits and may lead to chest pain and heart attacks. 

Chest pain in women may at times be explained by smaller or more spread out deposits within the coronary arteries which can be missed by just analyzing the catheterization x-ray pictures.  Using a very small camera with intravascular ultrasound, one can view directly these deposits.  During the catheterization measurements of coronary blood flow can also be obtained.  Abnormal blood flow may  show small vessel disease which is another explanation for chest pain. These are two newer areas of study for chest pain in women.
Carotid and Peripheral Extremity Angiograms

The Carotid arteries supply the brain. Blockage of these arteries may cause strokes.  Blockage of the arteries in the legs may cause pain on ambulation (claudication) or ulcers. An angiogram is an x-ray test wherein dye is placed to visualize these blockages.





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