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Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories

The Center for Cardiac Care cardiac catheterization laboratory (cath lab) is a specialized service that plays an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. Cardiac catheterization allows cardiologists to assess blockages in coronary arteries and determine what is the most appropriate treatment option.

The Elkhart General cardiac cath lab houses two state-of-the art procedure rooms and performs approximately 1,600 procedures per year.

Diagnostic and interventional cardiology services provided in the lab include:

  • Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization: involves a cardiologist inserting a small tube called a catheter into a vein or artery, then guiding the tube to the heart. Contrast (dye) is then injected into the catheter so that the heart and coronary artery functions can be viewed on TV monitors while they are also being digitally recorded. Physicians study the images to help pinpoint the exact problem and prescribe the best treatment. Patients undergoing catheterization are given local anesthetics and usually feel very little discomfort.
  • Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty: also known as PTCA or balloon angioplasty, is an interventional procedure which involves inserting a balloon-tipped catheter into a blocked heart artery. The balloon is then inflated and deflated to compress the blockage of plaque and increase the blood flow.
  • Coronary stenting: a stent is a small metal coil, or mesh tube, that may be placed in the artery to help keep it from reclosing by providing a scaffolding-like support. A stent is commonly used in conjunction with a balloon angioplasty and atherectomies.
  • Rotoblator: The rotoblator is a device used to clear plaque from clogged coronary arteries. Using a diamond-tipped drill, the rotoblator rotates at a high speed in order to bore through deposits of plaque, breaking plaque into tiny particles. These particles then flow from the artery, leaving the artery clear of obstruction.
  • Intravascular ultrasound: also known as IVUS uses sound waves, which travel through a catheter, to produce an image of the coronary arteries, allowing physicians to look inside blood vessels and assess their condition.
  • Atherectomies: this is a technique to remove plaque from a blocked heart artery. This procedure can be completed using several different state-of-the-art methods that the cath lab has readily available.
  • Permanent pacemakers: a procedure that involves the implantation of an electronic device that helps the heart maintain regular beats.
  • Coronary ultrasound: is a device that utilizes sound waves to assist in the evaluation of the heart arteries. A small catheter is placed inside the artery, and pictures are taken from within to better define the blockages.
  • Valvuloplasty: this procedure is similar to a balloon angioplasty of the heart arteries. The difference is that a larger balloon is used to expand a constricted valve, leading to increased blood flow through the heart.
  • Peripheral angioplasty: this procedure examines arteries of the body, i.e. arteries in the leg, for diagnosis and treatment, helping increase the blood flow where needed. Balloons and stents are often used in other arteries outside the heart.
  • Electrophysiology (EP) Studies: patients with a heart rhythm problem, or symptoms that suggest one, may be recommended for an electrophysiology (EP) study to learn more about their heart's electrical system. The doctor that specializes in heart rhythm problems and performs the procedures is called an electrophysiologist. During an EP study, the heart rhythm is monitored and analyzed from inside the heart through electrode catheters placed through the veins. The EP study can help determine exactly what the rhythm problem is and what can be done to control it.
  • Catheter Ablation: in some situations, the specific area of the rhythm disturbance can be corrected by sending energy through the electrode catheter to treat the rhythm problem. This procedure is called a Catheter Ablation, a procedure done as part of the EP study where energy is delivered to a small region of the heart to vaporize the abnormal area.
  • Three-Dimensional Mapping: 3-D mapping of the heart uses computerized technology to help physicians pinpoint the exact location of an irregular heart rhythm. By allowing physicians to see the heart's left atrium and pulmonary veins in real time, the ability to accurately locate irregular signals within the heart for ablation is enhanced.
  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD): the doctor may recommend an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a device that can help control the heart's rhythm, speed and pattern. An ICD is a small electronic device that is placed permanently inside the body. Like a pacemaker, it constantly monitors the heart rhythm. Most importantly, it has the ability to stop a dangerous arrhythmia.
  • Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy: also known as CRT, uses a specialized pacemaker that sends small electrical impulses to the heart to re-synchronize the action of the right and left ventricles in patients with heart failure. CRT allows the heart to fill and pump blood more effectively

Cardiac cath lab procedures require a physician referral and are performed by a cardiologist following an evaluation.