There are 3 main arteries which supply blood and oxygen to the heart. These arteries are on the surface of the heart and are typically 3 – 4mm wide. If these arteries are narrowed, you may experience symptoms such as angina, chest discomfort or shortness of breath. If your arteries become suddenly blocked, it may lead to a heart attack.
This procedure takes approximately 20 minutes to perform and you will be awake throughout.
Accessing the artery
You will receive some sedation through a drip in your arm to help you relax. The Doctor will then access the artery starting in either the groin or wrist. The area is numbed using a local anaesthetic and an incision is made through which a needle is inserted into the blood vessel. A catheter (a plastic coated wire) is passed over this needle and gently pushed up to the area of the blocked or narrowed artery.
Examining the arteries
Once the catheter has successfully reached the blocked or narrowed artery, a special x-ray dye is injected. An x-ray camera is used to take moving pictures of the dye flowing through the arteries. When all of the arteries have been examined, a catheter will be placed into the heart’s main pumping chamber and more dye will be injected. The dye will fill up the chamber and the x-ray camera will take moving pictures of the dye as it is pumped out of the chamber into the aorta (main blood vessel).
Measuring blood pressure
Sometimes it is necessary to measure the blood pressure in the heart and take pictures of the heart chambers or lung circulation. This is done as part of the procedure and involves placing a tube in the right side of the heart.
Occasionally during this procedure a blockage can be discovered in one of the coronary arteries. Current best practice advises that if a blockage is discovered, it should immediately be corrected using an Angioplasty or Stent procedure in order to avoid more serious complications such as heart attack. If additional treatment such as an Angioplasty or Coronary Stent are required, your Consultant Cardiologist will discuss this with you and inform you of the process involved.
Following the procedure:
- Strict bed rest is required; the length of which depends on the access site used (groin or wrist).
- If groin access is used, bed rest is required for 5 – 6 hours. You will be asked to limit your movement to reduce the risk of bleeding.
- If radial access (wrist) is used bed rest is required for 2 – 4 hours.
- Frequent checks of your blood pressure, pulse and puncture site will be carried out by your Nurse.