Sometimes, to get an accurate idea of how well your heart is working, medical staff must perform some specialized tests. These tests involve inserting thin tubes, called catheters, into arteries inside your body where they can travel toward your heart. Once they are in place, these catheters can measure factors such as:
- How much oxygen is in your blood
- How well your heart is pumping
- The regularity of your heartbeats
Medical staff use the same equipment to treat cardiovascular conditions as well. Coronary angioplasty involves using a catheter with an inflatable balloon on the end to open up a clogged artery, while cardiac stenting uses catheters to implant â€śbracesâ€ť that will hold weakened arteries open to help your blood flow correctly.
A Special Environment
All these procedures need to be performed in a particular area of the hospital called the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, or â€śCath Labâ€ť for short. This specially dedicated area of the hospital is part diagnostic testing facility, part operating room, and is designed to create an environment that focuses on safety and lifesaving results. Cath Labs are divided into two separate rooms.
The Examination Room
In the main room, you will lie on a well-equipped examination table while the procedure is performed. This room will be slightly different at every hospital but is always large enough to hold necessary equipment:
- Cabinets: Generally all of the equipment needed for a cardiac catheterization or similar procedure is stored in the cardiac catheterization lab itself. The cabinets will hold tools like:
- Sheaths (tools used to insert catheters into arteries)
- Guide wires
- Exam table: Similar to a traditional exam table, this table provides you with a place to lie during the procedure. The staff will give you instructions, and you will be given a sedative to help you relax.
- C-arm and X-ray equipment: X-rays will be taken constantly during the procedure so that medical technicians can see the catheter as it travels through your arteries. The X-ray equipment is connected to a â€śc-arm,â€ť which moves so the X-ray equipment can pass over top and around your body as needed to produce desired images.
- Monitors: Cath labs have several computer monitors that display data for the technicians. The monitors will display the X-ray images as well as other information.
The Control Room
Much like an airport, cardiac catheterization labs have control rooms where diagnostic and other medical experts have a dedicated space to view the procedure. The control room is an information center filled with staff and computers that display the X-ray images as they are being taken and monitor your vital signs while the test is being performed. The control room exists to make the procedures as safe as possible and to give expert staff a place to view the procedures, provide feedback, and otherwise backup the team members who perform the procedures.
For a little more about cardiac catheterization, its uses, and a quick tour of a cardiac catheterization lab, take a minute to watch this physician video from Kendall Regional Medical Center.
For more information on available cardiovascular tests or to schedule a diagnostic exam in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or anywhere else in South Florida, please Consult-A-NurseÂ® by calling 1-866-442-2362 or visit HCA East Florida online.