cardiac catheterization

cardiac catheterization

▪ medical procedure
 medical procedure by which a flexible plastic tube (catheter (catheterization)) is inserted into an artery or vein. It is used for injecting drugs for therapy or diagnosis, for measuring blood flow and pressure in the heart and central blood vessels, in performing procedures such as angiography (X-ray examination of the arteries and veins) and angioplasty (a procedure used to dilate obstructed arteries), and as a means of passing electrodes into the heart to study, restore, or regulate the heartbeat. Catheterization is central to the diagnosis, therapy, and surgical management of many forms of cardiovascular disease.

      The term cardiac catheterization was coined in 1844 by French physiologist Claude Bernard (Bernard, Claude), who inserted a glass catheter into the heart of a horse. The procedure was first performed in a human by German physician Werner Forssmann (Forssmann, Werner), who in 1929 opened a vein in his own arm, inserted a urethral catheter about 3.2 mm (0.125 inch) in diameter and 76 cm (2.5 feet) long, and passed it to the right side of his heart while photographing his accomplishment with an X-ray machine. In the United States, physiologists André Cournand (Cournand, André F.) and Dickinson Richards (Richards, Dickinson Woodruff) developed clinical applications of Forssmann's technique, and in 1956 the three shared a Nobel Prize for their achievements.

      Catheter materials and construction are now very sophisticated, permitting an enormous range of diagnostic and therapeutic techniques to be applied to almost every organ and blood vessel in the body—but especially to the heart. By the 1940s catheters were placed safely in the right chambers of the heart through veins, and by the 1950s they were placed in the left chambers through arteries. As these techniques were developed, it became possible to monitor blood pressure and flow in medical and surgical intensive-care units. Through the ability to place one or more catheters inside the heart chambers, all types of heart abnormalities were opened to study. Injection of iodine contrast medium into veins or directly into the heart chambers (angiography) made it possible to distinguish and surgically correct many congenital heart abnormalities, to replace or repair damaged heart valves and blood vessels, and even to replace the heart completely through transplantation. Special catheterization techniques now permit a cardiologist to study the function and pathology of arterial walls. One notable technique is intravascular ultrasound, in which a tiny ultrasound transducer mounted on the tip of a cardiac catheter is used to generate images of the interior walls of coronary arteries.

William L. Winters

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Universalium. 2010.

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