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Diagnosis through catheterization

The diagnostic heart catheterization procedure, sometimes called an angiogram, is effective at diagnosing any serious coronary artery disease. It is an invasive procedure using a long flexible tube that is inserted into an artery and gently directed toward the heart where a special dye is injected and images of the blood vessels are captured. This enables your doctor to look for blockages, and to determine if the blockages are dangerous. That information guides the development of a treatment plan for addressing any problems that are discovered during the procedure.

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Treatment through catheterization

If your coronary artery disease has already been diagnosed using one or more of the imaging studies available or via a diagnostic catheterization, your doctor may recommend you undergo what is called an interventional catheterization. During an interventional catheterization, your doctor may choose to use one of the following methods to actually treat blockages:

  • Angioplasty: a tiny balloon inserted into a narrowed artery can widen the opening and restore blood flow.
  • Intracoronary stent: a tiny metal coil that can be inserted into a coronary artery. The stent provides reinforcement to a weakened area in the artery to prevent it from closing. Some stents are embedded with medication that is slowly released to prevent a blockage from re-forming later.
  • Atherectomy: a small cutting device that is inserted through a catheter to gently shave away deposits or plaque from the walls of the blocked artery to restore blood flow.

Peripheral vascular intervention

Catheterization is also used for diagnosing and treating diseased blood vessels outside of the heart. The most common methods to treat vascular blockages include:

  • Angioplasty: a tiny balloon inserted into a narrowed blood vessel can widen the opening and restore blood flow to vital organs and extremeties.
  • Vascular stent: a tiny metal coil that is inserted into a narrowed blood vessel to reinforce a weak area to prevent it from closing.
  • Thrombolysis: clot-dissolving medication delivered through a catheter directly to potentially dangerous blood clots.

Learn more about your visit to the cath lab.

After an invasive procedure, your heart-care team may recommend a follow-up program to assist in your recovery and help you get back on the right path for long-term heart health. Learn more.