Cardiac catheterization refers to an invasive procedure that is performed to evaluate the heart's pumping function and look for coronary artery disease and valve problems, according to Cleveland Clinic. If the cardiac catheterization reveals coronary artery blockages, interventional procedures may be performed, including balloon angioplasty or stenting.
During cardiac catheterization, a sheath is inserted into an artery in the groin or arm, and a catheter is guided toward the heart, explains Cleveland Clinic. The tip of the catheter is placed near the coronary arteries and contrast material is injected into each artery while X-ray images are taken. The doctor uses the images to identify areas of narrowing or blockage in the coronary arteries. Patients typically receive local anesthetic at the insertion site and mild sedation to relax them during a cardiac catheterization.
If an interventional procedure is needed to open a narrowed coronary artery, it may be done immediately or scheduled for a later date. One type of interventional procedure, called balloon angioplasty, involves placing a small balloon in the narrowed area of the coronary artery, explains Cleveland Clinic. The balloon is inflated, pushing the blockage against the artery wall and increasing blood flow through the vessel. A stent, which is a metal mesh tube, is usually inserted following balloon angioplasty to decrease the chance of the artery narrowing again.