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Facts About Heart Disease

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Women and Heart Disease
Invasive Tests

Cardiac catheterization and coronary angiography
Cardiac catheterization is a common procedure that can help your doctor diagnose a heart problem. In some cases, catheterization can be used to treat heart disease as well, by opening blocked arteries with balloon angioplasty and stent placement.

A cardiac catheterization can show:
• If the blood vessels in your heart have narrowed
• If your heart is pumping normally and blood is flowing correctly
• If the valves in your heart are functioning normally
• If you were born with any heart abnormalities
• If the pressures in the heart and lung are normal or abnormal; and if abnormal, to further
  assess what the etiology of the problem might be

The cardiologist inserts a long flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel (either thru the wrist artery (radial artery) or the groin artery (femoral artery) and gently guides it towards your heart under X-ray guidance. Once the catheter is in place, x-rays and other tests are done to help him evaluate whether your coronary arteries are blocked and how well your heart is working. At times, it might also be necessary to insert a small catheter into a vein to allow measurement of specific pressures in the heart and the lung. This procedure can be done either thru a neck vein, arm vein or femoral (groin) vein.

Electrophysiology study
An Electrophysiology study (EP) is a recording of the electrical activity of the heart. This test is used to help the doctor find out the cause of the patient’s rhythm disturbance (arrhythmia) and the best treatment. During the test, the doctor may safely reproduce the arrhythmia, and then give the medications to see which one controls it best.

An EP study is performed in the Electrophysiology Laboratory of a hospital, where the patient is placed on an x-ray table. As with a cardiac catheterization, the doctor inserts a long, flexible tube, an electrode catheter, into a blood vessel (usually the femoral vein, in the patient’s groin).

There are potentially three parts to the EP study:

1. Recording the heart’s electrical signals to assess electrical function;
2. Pacing the heart to bring on certain abnormal rhythms for observation under controlled conditions.
3. In some cases, an ablation procedure is performed at the same time, to destroy abnormal tissue which may be causing the patient’s arrhythmia.

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