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Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic procedure that assesses how well a patient's heart is functioning. Doctors order cardiac catheterization if they suspect heart problems or to see how an existing problem is progressing. The procedure involves inserting a tube into one of the large blood vessels in the heart. Though often solely diagnostic, sometimes the surgeon will perform an angioplasty, as well.

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1. Cardiac catheterization as a diagnostic tool

There are various reasons a person may require cardiac catheterization. When used diagnostically, the surgeon can inject dye into the heart to examine the condition of the arteries with an x-ray, looking for any narrowing or blockages. This procedure is known as coronary angiography. Cardiac catheterization can also be used to assess the blood pressure inside the heart and to see how effectively the organ is pumping. The surgeon may examine the inside of the heart for defects. Blood samples can show blood oxygenation, and tissue samples indicate signs of disease.

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