The Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory
MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center’s cardiac catheterization laboratory (known as the “cath lab”) is the site of life-saving heart attack treatment as well as a variety of other interventional and diagnostic procedures. Similar to an operating room, the cath lab is a sterile procedure room. But while the hospital’s operating rooms are meant to accommodate traditional surgical procedures requiring incisions and anesthesia, the cath lab is designed for minimally invasive endovascular procedures guided by rapid x-ray imaging.
During a procedure, x-rays are captured 15 to 30 times a second. The x-rays are converted into high-definition images and transmitted to a screen that the physician can see. Using this method, the interventional cardiologist and cath lab team can see what’s going on inside the patient in real time. Diagnostic procedures, such as cardiac catheterization, are performed in the cath lab. The lab is also the setting for life-saving emergency coronary angioplasty and elective coronary angioplasty.
Cath Lab Procedures
On the day of your cath lab procedure, you will begin in a comfortable pre- and post-procedure room where you and your family members can consult with the physician and ask questions. You may be given medication to make you feel relaxed, although you will be awake during the procedure.
The access site in the arm or leg is numbed with a local anesthetic, and the catheter process itself is painless. After the procedure, you will return to the comfortable pre-and post-procedure room to watch TV, read, chat with family, or enjoy the hospital’s free Wi-Fi while the access site closes. For more information about specific procedures, see the treatment information for angioplasty.
Heart Attack Care
MedStar Southern Maryland's dedicated cath lab team is on call 24 hours a day to treat patients coming in with a heart attack quickly. In recognition of the hospital’s high quality emergency heart attack care, MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center has been designated a Cardiac Interventional Center (CIC) by the state of Maryland.
As a result of our CIC designation, patients in our region with heart attack symptoms are transported by ambulance or helicopter directly to MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, where they are fast-tracked to the cath lab and receive lifesaving coronary angioplasty within minutes.
There is more to Heart Center at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center than top-notch heart attack treatment. We also provide diagnosis and treatment for problems with the heart’s rhythm—called cardiac arrhythmias—which can lead to sudden cardiac death if left untreated.
The heart beats by means of electrical impulses firing in the muscle. If those impulses are not firing properly, the heart can short circuit. While some heart arrhythmias are harmless, others can cause patients to have palpitations, a heartbeat that is too slow, too fast, or irregular, and in the worst case can cause ventricular fibrillation, which is deadly.
To help the heart maintain a regular beat, an electrophysiologist can implant one of several devices, including pacemakers, defibrillators, and bi-ventricular pacemakers. A pacemaker is used for patients with heartbeats that are too slow: it intervenes when the heart slows down and prompts the heart to beat at a proper pace. An implant- able defibrillator is used to prevent sudden cardiac death from ventricular fibrillation.
Arrhythmia treatments shock the heart into a regular rhythm just as external defibrillators (“paddles”) do, but it works directly on the heart muscle from inside the body. All defibrillators have pacemakers incorporated into them as well, so patients with an implanted defibrillator will also be protected against other rhythm irregularities. A diagnostic device called an implantable loop recorder can also be implanted to correlate a patient’s symptoms with the heart’s electric impulses.
Device implantation is performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. Rapid x-rays, usually 15 to 30 per second, are transformed into high definition pictures on a screen that show the electrophysiologist and cath lab team what’s going on inside the patient in real time.
To implant these devices, the electrophysiologist makes a small incision and places them beneath the skin but on top of the ribs. Then he threads tiny wires through the blood vessels to the heart, where they are connected be tween the heart muscle and the regulating device. Patients stay in the hospital for less than 24 hours after surgery and can resume all of their normal activities within one month.
MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute
MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center partners with MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, a national leader in research, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease.