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Cardiac Catheterization and Coronary Angiography

by Michael J. Shea, MD

Cardiac catheterization used with coronary angiography is the most accurate method of diagnosing coronary artery disease. Used together, the two procedures are the only way to directly measure the pressure of blood in each chamber of the heart and to obtain an image of the interior of coronary arteries. These procedures are done to determine whether angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery is technically feasible. They may be done to confirm the diagnosis of other heart disorders, to determine the severity of a heart disorder, or to detect the cause of worsening symptoms.

More than a million cardiac catheterizations and angiographic procedures are done every year. They are relatively safe, and complications are rare. With cardiac catheterization and angiography, the chance of a serious complication—such as stroke, heart attack, or death—is 1 in 1,000. Fewer than 0.01% of people undergoing these procedures die, and most of those who die already have a severe heart disorder or other disorder. The risk of complications and death is increased for older people.

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