Medical devices

Cardiac Catheter – Application & Health Benefits

Cardiac catheter

cardiac catheter is placed to examine the heart and coronary arteries . The catheter is used to diagnose pathological changes in the heart valves , the heart muscle or the coronary arteries.

What is a cardiac catheter?

A cardiac catheter is a thin and flexible plastic tube. A distinction can be made between right heart catheters (small heart catheters) and left heart catheters (large catheters). An X-ray contrast agent is injected into the catheter so that the vessels and structures of the heart become visible.

The investigation also carries risks. This can lead to cardiac arrhythmias , strokes or vascular injuries.

Shapes, Species & Types

There are basically two forms of catheter. With the left heart catheter, pathological changes in the heart valves, the heart muscle and the coronary vessels of the left heart are diagnosed. The left ventricle and the left atrium can be examined with the left heart catheter. The puncture site for this examination is usually in the groin. Access to the heart is via an artery .

The right heart catheter examination measures the pumping capacity of the heart and the pressure in the pulmonary arteries. In contrast to left-heart catheters, right-heart catheters usually do not use an X-ray contrast medium. Access is via the veins . The puncture site is usually in the crook of the arm, in rare cases also in the groin.

The right heart catheter is often performed in connection with a stress test. In a lying position, the patient steps into bicycle pedals. Meanwhile, the values ​​are measured with the catheter. These can then be compared with the resting values. With this difference in values, a good overview of cardiac output can be obtained.

Structure & functionality

The primary goal of cardiac catheterization is to guide the catheter into different parts of the heart in order to be able to take pressure measurements there or to visualize certain structures.

First, the puncture site is locally anesthetized so that the patient does not feel any pain. If necessary, sedatives can also be administered. Anesthesia is usually not necessary. A sheath is then placed in the blood vessel using the Seldinger technique. This serves as a guide and as a seal for the puncture site. A guide wire is then pushed through the splint to the target area. The optimal position of the wire is checked with the aid of an X-ray machine. The catheter is then inserted along this wire. Once the catheter is properly seated, the wire is removed as well. The position of the cardiac catheter can be corrected if necessary under fluoroscopy with X-rays.

With a right heart catheter, the pressure in different areas of the heart is measured. An X-ray contrast medium must be administered to the patient in order to be able to assess the heart’s action and visualize the heart vessels. If the catheter needs to be repositioned, a guide wire is used again. This can simply be inserted through the sheath.

After the examination, the heart catheter, the guide wire and the sheath are removed again. The puncture site is sealed with a vascular closure system or a pressure bandage .

Medical & health benefits

Many examinations of the cardiovascular system are possible with the cardiac catheter. In general, the blood flow in the heart can be shown with the X-ray contrast medium. The pressure, the oxygen content and the temperature in the vessels can also be recorded. In the case of cardiac arrhythmias and disturbances in the conduction of excitation, the catheter examination provides information about the electrical activities of the heart muscles.

With a right catheter, pressure, oxygen and temperature are primarily measured in the right heart. Left heart catheters enable oxygen and pressure measurement in the aorta and in the left ventricle of the heart. The left ventricle and the coronary arteries can be made visible with contrast medium.

Many other treatments can only be carried out together with a heart catheter. A narrowing of the coronary arteries can lead to a heart attack . Balloon dilatation is usually performed to widen the narrowed or blocked vessels again . A balloon catheter is inserted into the vessels. There is a balloon at the end of the balloon catheter. In the vasoconstriction, this balloon is unfolded and thereby widens the vessel so that the blood can flow more easily again.

If the desired result is not achieved with a balloon catheter, a stent can be implanted. A stent is a small tube made of metal mesh. This tube is folded and placed on a balloon catheter. The heart catheter with the stent is then pushed to the constriction in the vessel and widened there. The stent remains in the affected vessel.

With the heart catheter, open surgery for congenital heart defects can be avoided today. Diseases such as atrial septum defects, ventricular septal defects or valve stenosis can be removed directly during the cardiac catheter examination. Heart valves can also be implanted using cardiac catheters. Excitement disorders can also be treated with the cardiac catheter. In the process, disruptive tissue is destroyed.

However, cardiac catheterization is not risk-free. Postoperative bleeding often occurs in the area of ​​the puncture site. Vascular anomalies at the puncture site are also observed.

If contrast media are used during the examination, allergic reactions may occur. In addition, the administered contrast agent is harmful to the kidneys and is only conditionally recommended in the case of impaired kidney performance. In patients with an overactive thyroid gland , the iodinated contrast medium can also lead to a life-threatening thyrotoxic crisis .

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.