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Cardiovascular Catheterization

Cardiovascular Catheterization

The Heart and Vascular Center at St. Mary performs cardiovascular catheterizations using state-of-the-art technology and advanced clinical procedures. St. Mary performs nearly 4,000 catheterizations annually, making it one of the busiest and most experienced labs in the region.

St. Mary opened a new digital catheterization suite in February 2009.

St. Mary Medical Center uses state-of-the-art technology and
advanced clinical procedures in the Heart and Vascular Center that performs cardiovascular catheterizations.

Catheterization is used to diagnose blockages and narrowing in arteries, evaluate the pumping ability of the heart, the functioning of heart valves, and to measure pressures within the heart.

Angioplasty performed in the cath lab clears blockages in arteries to restore blood flow to the heart or extremities.  In many cases, coronary stents are then inserted to support the tubular structure of the blood vessel and keep it open  

Vital facts about the Cardiovascular Cath Lab

Images shown during catheterization show blockages and narrowing of cardiac arteries

Read more about common treatments
for a heart attack.

Stents are frequenly used following
angioplasty to keep arteries open

Although most procedures done in the cardiovascular catheterization labs at St. Mary Medical Center are not emergencies, for those that are, the cath lab is truly a life saver.

In cases of heart attack, emergency angioplasty provides the immediate intervention required to minimize damage to the heart.  St. Mary Medical Center is among the most successful hospitals nationwide in performing emergency angioplasty within the optimal time frame in response to a heart attack. St. Mary is averaging well below the recommended 90-minute door-to-balloon time with a monthly average closer to 77 minutes, and in some cases closer to 50 minutes.  For more information about St. Mary's door-to-balloon time, please read the press release  about this accomplishment.

To appreciate the importance of balloon angioplasty and rapid intervention, it is important to understand what happens in a heart attack.  Basically, one of the arteries to the heart becomes blocked.  Although the heart is full of the blood it pumps, this blood does not furnish the oxygen and nutrients the heart needs to do the pumping.  The heart's blood is supplied by a system of arteries on its surface called "coronary arteries."  It is these arteries that cause problems if they become narrowed or blocked.  Without the oxygen furnished by these coronary arteries, the heart will essentially suffocate and die.  The longer it takes to restore blood flow to the heart tissue, the greater the likelihood of permanent damage to the heart muscle.  If the area affected by the loss of circulation is large enough, the ability of the heart to pump blood is affected.  Shock can develop and heart could stop beating altogether.  Without immediate medical intervention, death can occur.