A proper diagnosis is the first step to find, treat, and prevent heart disease. Thanks to recent huge advances in medical research, there are many tests and procedures that more accurately help the exercise. It’s time to review some of the more invasive options.
The best-known (invasive) test is cardiac catheterization. The procedure involves placing a sheath (short tube) in a major artery (femoral) in your groin area. It serves as the “host” conduit through which several tests can be accomplished.
When the host sheath is in place, another flexible and longer one is inserted. It’s the “guide catheter.” Utilizing x-ray images on a monitor, your cardiologist slowly threads it up to your heart.
The guide catheter measures the pressure in your heart chambers. It also inserts a dye that’s visible on an X-ray. This allows your doctor to check for abnormalities in the blood-flow through your heart, vessels, and valves.
Cardiac catheterization is the gate-way for many other types of tests. It serves as the foundation for heart biopsy, angiograms, and angioplasty.
Because cardiac catheterization allows for the retrieval of blood and heart tissue samples, it’s the best method to execute another essential diagnostic tool, a heart biopsy. This procedure removes a tiny piece of your heart tissue to be sent to a lab for testing. It is especially helpful if your doctor believes you have heart inflammation, but it’s not been verified by other previous tests.
Angioplasty involves using the same catheter procedures. However, it adds the use of a small balloon and a coil attached at the end of the “guide” that’s threaded slowly up to blocked arteries.
The balloon is inflated, pushing the plaque to the sides of the artery walls. This allows for better blood flow. The plastic coil, known as a stent, is often left in place to help keep unimpeded blood movement indefinitely.
Angiograms see if you have coronary artery disease. They also locate the impeding deposits, and show their size with accuracy.
Coronary artery bypass surgery is much more invasive. This involves taking a vein from another part of your body (usually, a leg), and using it to bypass the blockage(s) closer to your heart.
Tools for testing and treating heart disease are plentiful and effective. They have the impact of life over death for so many patients. The next installment, “Defining heart disease, part 7, section B-2” discusses treatment and prevention.