Diagnostic Tests & Procedures
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Catheterization and Angioplasty

Heart catheterizations are performed by an invasive cardiologist to examine its blood supply, beating strength and valve function. Patients needing this procedure generally have an abnormal stress test, heart failure, previous angina/chest pain, problems with heart valves or elevated pressures in the heart or lungs. Using specialized catheters, we measure the pressures in the heart and take x-ray pictures of the heart and its coronary arteries. The catheterization data is integrated with all of your other testing to develop a comprehensive and individual plan of therapy. Depending on the results of this study, you may go on to a another procedure called angioplasty or stenting to open the blocked artery. These refer to various methods of opening a blocked coronary artery. 

Angioplasty is performed by an interventional cardiologist in much the same way as a heart catheterization. Balloons and stents are used to stretch open the artery to improve flow. The stent is a permanently implanted spring-like metal device that props open the artery. In some cases, it may be necessary to use an atherectomy device to shave off excess plaque build up. In general, these devices are used in combination to open up the artery as much as possible to improve flow.

Depending on several factors, your doctor may decide to place either a bare-metal stent or one coated with a drug that makes it less likely for the stent to re-narrow. The advantage of the drug-coated stent is a greatly reduced risk of stent re-narrowing and need for repeat procedures.

A recently identified problem of the drug-coated stent is that in a few patients there is a chance for sudden closure of the stent due to clot formation. Therefore, it is very important to take both aspirin and other blood thinners such as Plavix (clopidogrel) or Ticlid (ticlopidine) as prescribed after the procedure. Currently in our practice, we recommend at least a year of these blood thinners. It is important that the aspirin, Plavix or Ticlid are not discontinued for any period of time without discussing it with your cardiologist. We are available at any time to discuss this with you or your physician.

What to expect:

  • Before the procedure:
    In general, you will first meet with the physician in the office who describes the procedure in detail, including the risks and benefits. Once all of your questions are answered, your procedure will be scheduled at the appropriate hospital. Some hospitals require an initial pre-operative evaluation by their staff and will make those arrangements with you. Your doctor may adjust your medications prior to the procedure. We ask that you not eat or drink after midnight before your procedure.
  • The day of the procedure:
    When you arrive at the hospital on the day of your procedure, you will be taken to a pre-operative holding area. After changing, an intravenous line will be placed. You will then be taken to the procedure suite and greeted by a team of physicians and nurses who will care for you. Importance is placed on privacy and comfort during the procedure.  At the conclusion of the procedure, you will be transported to the recovery area.  Angioplasty requires an overnight stay.
  • After the procedure:
    Discharge instructions and follow-up appointments are provided before leaving. Patients are instructed to call our office at anytime with any concerns or questions. Typically, patients are asked not to drive or perform heavy lifting for two days, after which time, they are able to return to their routine activities. Do not begin an exercise program unless discussed with your doctor. You should see your doctor within a week or two after the procedure.


Southcoast Physicians Group An affiliate of Southcoast Physicians Group.