Monitoring the health of one's heart and cardiovascular system is one of the most important preventative steps an individual can take to ensure their long-term health. The most effective way to examine the overall health of the heart is a test called a coronary angiogram. This relatively non-invasive test involves injecting dye into the patient's bloodstream where it will flow into their heart. Special imaging technology is then used to follow the flow of the dye through the various chambers and valves of the heart to check for defects.
Abnormal Heart Stress Test Results
A stress test is a diagnostic test often used to detect coronary heart disease in an individual who is experiencing related symptoms. During a stress test, the patient walks on a treadmill machine that accelerates to make their heart work increasingly harder. An electrocardiogram is used to monitor the electrical rhythms in their heart throughout the exercise. A pulse monitor shows any abnormalities in the patient's heart rate, and a blood pressure cuff can alert the physician to any abnormal blood pressure changes during the test.
A stress test does not confirm or rule out a coronary artery disease diagnosis, but it can be used in combination with other risk factors to indicate more testing is needed. Abnormal stress test results point to a problem in the way the patient's heart is functioning. In order to determine the diagnosis, severity, and degree of coronary artery disease in a suspected individual, a coronary angiogram may be needed. A coronary angiogram is helpful because it can show the physician how the blood flows through the vessels in the heart, the presence of any interruptions in blood flow, and the location of such interruptions.
Can Reveal Valve Defects Before They Present Symptoms
The heart has a series of valves that regulate the flow of blood in and out of its chambers and to the major organs such as the lungs. Many of the most common heart issues individuals experience are related to improper or decreased performance of these valves. These valve issues are often difficult to identify because the symptoms can be very minor; however, if left undetected, these minor defects can build over time and can then result in serious heart issues. Coronary angiograms can identify these valve issues much earlier than other tests.
Can Identify Early Symptoms Of Heart Disease
Coronary angiograms offer doctors an unprecedented level of information about the patient's heart and its performance. Early detection and prevention are some of the only ways to keep congenital heart defects or minor complications from turning into much more serious issues. Some of the symptoms of heart disease present themselves as minor issues such as shortness of breath or slight chest pain, which some individuals disregard as other problems. Coronary angiograms can let doctors determine if these minor symptoms are indicative of heart disease or if they are not as serious.
Can Detect Blockages
Atherosclerosis is a common cardiovascular illness in which the affected individual's arteries become constricted or harden due to a buildup of cholesterol or fats. This buildup often takes years to accumulate before serious symptoms develop. Coronary angiograms can detect blockages such as these in or around the heart early, long before they result in congestive heart failure or blood clots. These blockages can be so minor that they can go undetected by stethoscopes and stress tests, yet can be easily spotted by coronary angiograms.
Let Doctors See The Big Picture
It can often be difficult for doctors to analyze the health of a patient's internal organs without performing invasive procedures or surgeries. To examine a patient's insides, doctors often have to rely on deductive reasoning based on stethoscope evidence, bloodwork, and other overall health indicators. Coronary angiograms, on the other hand, can let doctors essentially see right through a patient's chest and watch the activity inside their heart without picking up a scalpel. There are many conditions and symptoms that can only be identified through either surgery or this non-invasive procedure, making it a crucial one.
Can Save A Patient's Life
Monitoring one's heart health is not something to be disregarded or put off until later, as there are many life-threatening heart issues and complications that can only be prevented through early detection. While other cardiac examinations can sometimes identify these issues before they become serious, a coronary angiogram is the most effective method of spotting blockages, valve defects, or other issues within the heart. This procedure only takes a few hours and requires just a minor injection of dye.
When Dealing With Angina
Angina is a form of chest pain that results from a reduced amount of blood flow to an individual's heart. This sensation can be described as a heaviness, tightness, pressure, or squeezing pain in the chest. Angina can happen when an individual is exerting themselves, or it may occur when they are at rest. The reduced blood flow to the heart that causes angina is usually the result of coronary artery disease. This type of disease develops when fatty deposits accumulate in an individual's arteries and cause them to become narrowed.
Because angina is a serious symptom indicative of obstruction and narrowing of coronary arteries, a patient's physician may order a coronary angiogram to either confirm or rule out coronary artery disease. A coronary angiogram allows for the viewing of a series of images that depict the flow of blood through the blood vessels inside of a patient's heart through the use of x-rays and a special dye. In some cases, a physician may find and clear out blockages in the coronary arteries during the administration of a coronary angiogram.
After A Chest Injury
An individual may need to undergo a coronary angiogram after a chest injury has occurred. This procedure is administered to identify and detect the presence, location, and severity of any coronary vessel injuries. These types of injuries can occur as a result of the direct impact and also from the deceleration of the heart caused by a chest injury. Common coronary injuries often found through the use of a coronary angiogram include coronary artery dissection or a tear in coronary blood vessels, plaque rupture or separation of a fatty lesion from the arterial wall, and thrombus or blood clot formation.
Common causes of chest injuries that warrant the administration of a coronary angiogram include motor vehicle crashes, vehicle to pedestrian crashes, assault, long falls, and sports-related injuries. The most common area to be affected related to the coronary arteries of the heart is the left front descending artery. Most individuals with significant coronary vessel damage following a chest injury will experience pain and have abnormal levels of cardiac enzymes in their blood.
Unexplained Pain In The Chest, Neck, Jaw, Or Arm
An emergent coronary angiogram may be performed on individuals who come to an emergency department with unexplained pain in their chest, neck,jaw, or arm. Unexplained pains in these areas can be indicative of a heart attack. Blood tests and a physical examination can help a physician eliminate other conditions that can cause this type of unexplained pain. An urgent coronary angiogram and angioplasty procedure are performed when a physician has a suspicion of a heart attack in the patient through physical examination, reported symptoms, and other diagnostic tests.
If the urgent tests determine a heart attack is occurring due to the narrowing of a coronary artery, the physician will use specialized tools during the same procedure to widen the artery. This widening is typically accomplished with a catheter containing a deflated balloon on the end of it. The catheter and balloon are passed through a major artery in the pelvis to the affected coronary artery and is inflated to widen the narrowed artery. A stent is then placed in the artery to hold it open and restore blood flow.