Cardiac catheterization is a procedure in which a doctor inserts a thin flexible tube, or catheter, into the blood vessels of the heart to check blood flow and heart function, explains WebMD. An angioplasty is a procedure in which a surgeon widens the narrowed portion of the coronary artery to increase blood flow to the heart. Cardiac catheterization is a necessary part of an angioplasty, allowing the surgeon to locate the narrowed portion of the coronary artery.
In order to perform the angioplasty, the surgeon first inserts a catheter through a blood vessel in the wrist or the groin, carefully advancing it until it reaches the narrowed area, says WebMD. During most angioplasties, the surgeon also inserts a tube known as a stent. With the use of a guide wire, he pushes the stent and a balloon into the coronary artery, uses the balloon to expand the stent, then withdraws the balloon and catheter. The stent remains in the artery, holding it open to improve blood flow, preventing collapse of the artery, sealing the artery wall if any tears are present, and preventing plaque from coming loose and causing a heart attack. Over time, the blood vessel grows around and through the stent, securing it in place.