Finding the Problem

In a diagnostic procedure, your doctor inserts a catheter to explore your circulatory system. Guided by special X-ray machines, the doctor uses the catheter to examine the coronary arteries or other parts of the vascular system. Often, contrast material is injected to help identify a narrowing or blockage in an artery.

Through the catheter, your cardiologist can check the blood flow in your coronary arteries and inside the chambers of your heart. The doctor can find out how well your valves work and determine the blood pressure inside your heart.

Diagnostic tools that may be used in the Cath Lab include intra-vascular ultrasound (IVUS) and fractional flow reserve (FFR). With IVUS, a miniature sound probe inside the coronary arteries uses high-frequency sound waves to yield detailed images of the arteries’ inside walls. With FFR, a wire is threaded through an artery to measure pressures on either side of an occlusion, or blockage.

Inserting a catheter into an artery allows a physician to access the heart’s left ventricle. A catheter also can be inserted through a vein, allowing access to the heart’s right side. 


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