heart health

Cardiac Cath Lab

Learn more about the benefits of cardiac catheterization

Cardiac catheterization enables physicians to rapidly diagnose and treat heart disease and heart emergencies without the need to open the chest. In some catheterization procedures, the cardiologist simply examines the health of the arteries, valves and other structures in the heart. However, catheterization also enables the cardiologist to actually treat some types of heart conditions.

In the catheterization process, the physician threads a long, flexible tube called a catheter through an artery and up to the heart by way of a small puncture — typically in the groin. A variety of tools can be passed through the catheter, depending on the goal of the particular catheterization procedure.

One type of tool is a "balloon" that can help to stop a heart attack while it is still in progress. Once the catheter reaches the blockage that is causing the heart attack, the balloon device is inserted and inflated to press the material creating the blockage against the walls of the artery. This reopens the artery and typically provides immediate relief for the heart attack patient.

After the artery blockage is taken care of, a cardiologist often uses the catheter to place a stent. This device is a wire mesh tube that helps to keep the artery open.

The cardiac catheterization laboratory

The cornerstone of our heart treatment program at Adventist Health Simi Valley is our cardiac catheterization laboratory. Although this technology enables cardiologists to perform a wide variety of procedures, one of the most important is the ability to stop heart attacks that are caused by a blockage in an artery of the heart.

Emergency room physicians have the option to admit heart attack patients directly to our cardiac cath lab for an immediate procedure to remove the blockage. This capability eliminates the need to transfer certain heart attack patients to another facility for care.

It is particularly important to treat heart attack patients as rapidly as possible because "time is muscle" — meaning that the sooner the blockage is removed, the more heart muscle is preserved. Patients who are able to go directly to a cardiac cath lab typically have less overall damage to their heart and other vital organs They also tend to recover more quickly.