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Heart catheterization

2 minute read
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A heart catheterization is a procedure where a very thin cable wire (the catheter) is inserted through an artery in the patient’s wrist or groin. The tube is guided to the heart, providing the physician with images showing how the heart is working and enabling any blockages to be identified.

When a blockage is discovered, a tiny balloon is inserted through the catheter. It is inflated and deflated several times, pressing the blockage and plaque against the wall of the artery to enable the blood to flow freely. This is partly successful to address the patient’s problem. More frequently these days, a stent is placed in the ballooned area to ensure a more durable and stable resolution to restoring blood flow. Balloon angioplasty and endovascular stenting are two steps in the same procedure delivered by two different vehicles and placement to open blocked arteries.

Heart catheterization is the most common procedure for heart patients performed at Goshen Hospital. As a recipient of the Platinum Performance Achievement Award, every heart patient who comes into our Emergency Department is classified as a heart attack or not.

One of the critical measurements of success is known as “first medical contact to balloon time,” which is the time it takes from when the patient is met by emergency medical services to when the blood flow to arteries is restored. The best hospitals in the country get this accomplished within 90-120 minutes. It is challenging to do in rural parts of the country or when patients do not call 911 when they may be having a heart attack and choose to wait or drive themselves to the hospital putting their lives and of those on the road in danger.

The longer time it takes, the more heart muscle can be damaged. Just like with a stroke. The sooner intervention for a stroke takes place, the more brain tissue is preserved. Time is heart and time is brain. That’s why it’s so critical in either case, to know the signs of a heart attack or stroke and to call 9-1-1 so intervention can begin sooner.

Catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure and not an invasive open heart bypass surgery. Patients are often awake during the procedure, which benefits the patient by offering less time in the hospital, a quicker recovery time and less risk of infection when compared to open heart surgery.

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