What is Unstable Angina?
Angina is a type of chest pain caused by poor blood flow through the coronary arteries, which supply the heart muscle. When angina occurs following activity, exertion or stress, it is referred to as stable angina. If it occurs unpredictably while at rest or with little exertion, it is called unstable angina. Unstable angina suggests severe blockage of the coronary arteries and can lead to irregular heart rhythm or a heart attack.
What is Cardiac Catheterization?
Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure to diagnose and treat certain heart conditions. It involves passing a thin flexible tube through a blood vessel in the groin or arm up to the heart. Cardiac catheterization is performed as an emergency procedure to diagnose and treat unstable angina. It can help visualize the blood vessels of the heart with X-rays using a special dye. Instruments attached to the catheter tip can be used to treat the area of blockage.
Procedure for Cardiac Catheterization
- You will be instructed to lie down on the operating table and will be sedated. The skin near the artery or vein to be entered will be cleaned and sterilized.
- A small incision will be made on the skin and a hollow plastic tube will be inserted.
- A catheter is then guided through the tube up to the coronary arteries via fluoroscopic x-ray imaging.
- A special dye is instilled to visualize the coronary arteries by X-ray imaging.
- The catheter may be guided into the heart to evaluate heart function and pressure within the heart chambers.
- A balloon attached to the tip of the catheter may be inflated to expand areas of blockage within an artery. A stent is usually placed to keep the artery open.
- Following the procedure, the catheter and tube are removed.
- Firm pressure is applied to the incisional area for 5-20 minutes to prevent bleeding.
- A compressive dressing is placed over the incision site.
Postoperative Care Following Cardiac Catheterization
The dressing may be removed the following day and the wound covered with a Band-Aid. You can usually resume your normal activities within 48 hours.
Risks and complications of Cardiac Catheterization
Cardiac catheterization is normally a safe process but may be associated with certain risks and complications including:
- Heart attack
- Injury to the coronary artery
- Irregular heartbeat
- Reaction to the contrast dye
- Blood clots
- Damage to other blood vessels
- Bleeding, infection, and pain at the insertion site
- Kidney damage due to the contrast dye