Catheterization FAQs

What happens during a cath procedure and a surgical procedure?
During a catheter procedure, a catheter (small tube) is inserted in the artery in the groin which is then maneuvered into the heart and coronary arteries. A dye is then inserted through the tube to show the cardiologist where the blockage is in the coronaries.

A surgical procedure involves an incision made in the chest, usually to sew in permanent bypass repair and/or replace valves.

What is an angioplasty?
Angioplasty is a surgical procedure performed usually on the arteries and occasionally on the veins. A small tube (catheter) is inserted in the groin which is then maneuvered into the heart and coronary arteries. A balloon is then inserted through the catheter. The balloon is inflated inside a blood vessel to flatten any plaque that blocks it and cause it to become narrowed, decreasing the blood flow. Inflating the balloon dilates the artery by breaking apart the atherosclerotic plaque.

What is an intervention?
An intervention generally refers to a procedure that opens up a blocked artery, such as a balloon angioplasty or stent.

What is a stent?
A stent is a circular screen cage-like device which is placed inside a blockage after some balloon procedures to prevent the blockage from collapsing and blocking the artery again.

If I have a catheter procedure will I have to spend the night?
It depends on the findings of the cath procedure and how much disease/blockage there is in the heart. Several things could happen. The physician may let you go home and ask that you follow up with an office visit. There may be further intervention required by the cardiologist which would require you to stay overnight or you may have a consult with a cardiac surgeon for a surgical procedure.

How will I know what the results are of the procedure?
Families are informed immediately after the cath procedure and as soon as your medication has worn off the physician will speak with you directly about the results of the procedure, usually while you are in the holding area or in your room. Families for surgical procedures will be informed after the procedure ends and be able to see you within the hour after they talk with the surgeon.

How often will I need to see a cardiologist or cardiac surgeon after my procedure?
It depends on the level of intervention. If you undergo a cath procedure, you may see the cardiologist once or twice after discharge and then you go back to yearly visits given no other complications.

If you undergo a surgical procedure, you will probably have to see the surgeon at least once and the cardiologist once or twice every month for one to three months. The surgeon releases you to be followed by the cardiologist. Once the cardiologist feels you have recovered, you are released to your primary care physician.

Does Medicare pay for cath interventions?
Yes, at least 80 percent.