Echocardiograms are painless tests, which utilize ultrasound waves to produce an image that shows the heart’s structure, blood flow and overall function. This type of testing can also provide information about the size of the atrium and ventricle.
As a diagnostic tool, cardiac catheterization allows physicians to examine how well a patient’s heart is working. It can reveal disease of the heart muscle, valves or coronary arteries, as well as measure the pressure and blood flow in the heart.
During a cardiac catheterization, a thin tube is inserted through the groin or arm and guided with the aid of fluoroscopy through the blood vessels to the heart. Different instruments may be placed at the tip of the catheter depending on the physician’s goal. Some are used to measure the pressure of blood in each heart chamber and in connected blood vessels, other may be used to view the interior of the blood vessels, take blood samples from the heart or remove a tissue sample from the heart.
A contrast dye can be used through the catheter during the procedure to show flow through the arteries and illuminate blockages. When a contrast dye is used, the procedure is referred to as a coronary angiography.
The catheter may also be used to clear a narrowed or blocked artery, in which case the procedure is referred to as an angioplasty or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).