While a cardiac catheterization typically takes around 30 minutes, preparation and recuperation time might take several hours. You should plan on spending the entire day at the hospital and have someone available to transport you home following the surgery. In addition, there are some other factors that might increase the duration of your procedure.
Cardiac catheterizations are usually done through either of two small cuts in the skin of the chest or back. The doctor uses a thin tube called a "catheter" to give you various injections into your heart. These injections allow your doctor to see how blood is flowing through your coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.
You will be given a general anesthetic for the procedure. While under anesthesia, your body will not produce any adrenaline or cortisol, which means you will remain calm during the test. Once you have been taken down for the procedure, you will likely notice some people walking by with balloons filled with helium. This is to help patients recover more quickly from the anesthesia used in the procedure.
After your cardiac catheterization has been completed, your doctor will let you know what parts of your heart were healthy and which parts needed treatment. If any blockages are found in your coronary arteries, then treatments such as balloon angioplasty or stent placement may be recommended.
It takes 45 minutes to finish a cardiac catheterization. Following a coronary angiography, three major treatment pathways are available, depending on the degree and pattern of any blockages discovered in the coronary arteries: medication care, percutaneous coronary intervention, or heart surgery. In general, patients who have fewer problems with other parts of their bodies can be treated with just medications. Those who have more extensive disease may need both medications and procedures to open up blocked arteries. Finally, some very sick patients will need only a heart transplant to save their lives.
During a cardiac catheterization, your doctor uses a small tube called a catheter to view your coronary arteries and any surrounding heart structures such as valves or wall muscles. The catheter is passed through an artery in your leg, into your chest, and then into your heart. Once inside your heart, the catheter allows your doctor to take images of the coronary arteries that could not be seen otherwise. These images help your doctor see how well blood is flowing through your coronary arteries and any possible blockages they may contain.
A cardiac catheterization requires putting you under anesthesia for the length of the procedure. There are different types of anesthesia used for cardiac procedures, but all work by keeping you unconscious during the procedure. After you come out of anesthesia, you'll likely feel weak and sore after a cardiac catheterization because there is no muscle tissue in your heart.
Cardiac catheterization is not considered a surgical operation because no big incision is made to access the chest and the recovery period is substantially shorter than that of surgery. However, due to the nature of the procedure itself, cardiac catheterization can be dangerous if done by someone who is not very experienced or certified in the technique. In fact, complications such as stroke, heart attack, blood clot in the lung, and death have been reported rarely but they can happen even to people who are not sick per se but who have other health problems.
Catheterization involves the insertion of a thin tube called a "catheter" into a large vein or artery on the surface of the body. The catheter is used to take pictures of the heart and lungs while the patient is still alive. It is also used to place wires within the heart to measure the pressure inside its chambers or to put small balls into the arteries to block the flow of blood through them which can allow doctors to see how blocked these vessels are using x-rays.
The catheter is inserted into the body through a small incision in the side of the neck or in some cases into an internal jugular vein or one of the larger veins in the leg.
A week or less is required for complete recovery. For the next 24 to 48 hours, keep the region where the catheter was placed dry. Recovery is usually faster if the catheter was placed into your arm. Be sure to clean and disinfect the insertion site every day after removing the catheter.
Healing after a catheter has been in place for several days or weeks is similar to that following any other wound. The skin around the area may have color changes during recovery. Dark blue-black coloration of the skin indicates infection. If this happens, remove the catheter immediately so you don't continue to spread the infection.
Other things to note: fever, soreness, and swelling at the insertion site may indicate an infection. Also, wear medical-grade, tight-fitting gloves when caring for your partner with a retained catheter.
People vary in how they react to having a catheter placed in their body. Some experience no pain relief during or after the procedure, while others feel only mild discomfort. Most people can expect to recover within seven days; however, some may need up to 30 days before fully recovering from the surgery.