Cardiac Catheterization--should I be skeptical?

I am new to this group, and am a concerned daughter. My mother is 57 years old, and has undergone several tests for palpitations that put her in the ER a few months ago. She has undergone a stress test, nuclear stress test, EKG, and a few blood tests. Her cardiologist has said that she likely has a heart block at the tip of her heart, and that the "electrical problems" are "just the way that she is made up". My mother has still had a few "episodes" of palpitations and shortness of breath. The cardiologist wants to do a cardiac catheterization, but my mother is adamant to not have this procedure done. I'm wondering what other diagnostic procedures are out there, and whether or not I should be skeptical. I'm also wondering if we should try and find a female cardiologist. My mother's NP has said that this may be related to the fact that she is post menopausal.

My mother is very active, eats well, but doesn't exercise on a regular basis. This is the first time that she's really had to be followed by a physician, so its a bit scary for her...

Thank you for any comments!

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A cardiac cath is a common diagnostic tool for many heart-related problems. In fact, many women at this site have had to fight FOR this test ... which, in fact, led to correct diagnosis.

What is the source of your mother's fear? Did she know someone who had a bad experience? Would more information on what to expect from the test help? Is she not quite ready to accept that she might have a heart problem? Would it help if she were to talk with another woman who has had the test?

My heart problems are related to heart failure (heart doesn't pump enough blood for body's needs), and I have never had a cardiac cath, but I completely understand the power of denial in our health problems. I tried to ignore my physical symptoms because I didn't want to face the possibility of this. 2 years later, I am a much stronger and healtier person -- physically, emotionally and spiritually -- because of my heart failure.

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Dear Mary,

Ditto on the above comments. Your mother should have the cath--no if's and's or but's about it. It sounds as if FEAR is her biggest obstacle. They need to find out what's going on in there (obviously something is)--unless she prefers to become a statistic. She will be awake and will be given a medication to keep her relaxed throughout. Generally in the hospital for 24 hours, unless they find a blockage and she needs a stent. Then, maybe 3 to 4 days.

Oh! How I wish my doctors had had the foresight and cared enough to give me a cath. Would have saved me Sudden Cardiac Death x 3. There's not too many people who "come back" to tell you about it!

Like it, or not, she needs to be grateful for this life-saving procedure. She may wish to research and inquire about wrist angioplasty. And get it through her head that her doctor is, indeed, attempting to save her life! This situation is scary--but the alternative is much scarier. And permanent.

May the Blessings Be!

Sherrie

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Mary:
I am one of those who has had to fight for the heart caths that saved my life. The reality of heart disease is that the only test that is 100% accurate for diagnosis of possible blockages is a heart cath. A lot of doctors diagnose based on EKGs and even stress tests. I am one of the women who can pass every test they give me and still be walking around with an 80% or more blockage in a main artery - a literal time bomb. I guess it must be the way I am made up. I am 43 and had 2 stents by age 40. 41 brought triple bypass followed by a heart attack, followed by another stent. None of my issues would have been found if I had not demanded a heart cath each time I knew I was sick. I have had over 12 caths since being diagnosed with heart disease. The procedure itself really is nothing to fear. It will give both her and your family peace of mind knowing what is going on with her heart. Most heart issues are easily treated, unless they are not discovered in time. Your mother's cardiologist is golden. Keep him!

Let us know what she decides and encourage her to visit our community. This is a great place for her and you both. Welcome to WomenHeart.

Dianna

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Hi Mary -- how good of you to check online for your Mom!! I was 62 and very healthy when I started having similar problems. Symptoms got worse over a couple of months as I was in line for a cardiac cath. Your mom should have an ECHO cardiogram and a cath. I ended finally having them after suffering complete heart block -- my electrical system shut down -- which basically pulls the plug on the pump!! Very scarey and could have ended tragically. (Thank goodness I then lived 2 blocks from University hospital ER) I don't know what the cath might have shown beforehand for me because my arteries are completely clear. The ECHO showed an EF (ejection fraction) of 29%. Normal range is 60-70%. I had emergency implant of an ICD and am now on appropriate Rx. Three years later, I'm feeling good most days and as active as I ever was! My EF is now in the low 60's! The cardiac cath - for me-- was really no big deal. I was in and out of the cath lab in about 7 hours with prep and post. Before the procedure, I remember asking the Doc, "Have you done a lot of these procedures?" His answer: "Oh yeah, it's just like going up I-5!" (That's the major north-south highway in CA)! The nurses brought me fresh strawberries afterwards! Anyhow, until docs have all the facts (via tests) they can't really know what's going on with your mom. The sooner they know, the sooner they can apply appropriate intervention -- if she needs it. Hugs, laurali

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Hi Mary -- how good of you to check online for your Mom!! I was 62 and very healthy when I started having similar problems. Symptoms got worse over a couple of months as I was in line for a cardiac cath. Your mom should have an ECHO cardiogram and a cath. I ended finally having them after suffering complete heart block -- my electrical system shut down -- which basically pulls the plug on the pump!! Very scarey and could have ended tragically. (Thank goodness I then lived 2 blocks from University hospital ER) I don't know what the cath might have shown beforehand for me because my arteries are completely clear. The ECHO showed an EF (ejection fraction) of 29%. Normal range is 60-70%. I had emergency implant of an ICD and am now on appropriate Rx. Three years later, I'm feeling good most days and as active as I ever was! My EF is now in the low 60's! The cardiac cath - for me-- was really no big deal. I was in and out of the cath lab in about 7 hours with prep and post. Before the procedure, I remember asking the Doc, "Have you done a lot of these procedures?" His answer: "Oh yeah, it's just like going up I-5!" (That's the major north-south highway in CA)! The nurses brought me fresh strawberries afterwards! Anyhow, until docs have all the facts (via tests) they can't really know what's going on with your mom. The sooner they know, the sooner they can apply appropriate intervention -- if she needs it. Hugs, laurali

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Hi Mary
By now, after reading all the excellent advice above, I hope you've relayed this message to your mother: JUST DO IT! Sounds like her cardiologist is recommending what's considered the 'gold standard' of cardiac testing - and the sooner, the better. Whether it's a male or female doc is irrelevant when you have a pro-active medical treatment plan recommended, which is the case for your mother.

Good for you for being your mother's advocate. I'm about the same age as she is, and you sound like my own daughter Larissa - who immediately went to work researching everything she could learn about heart disease after my heart attack!

Keep us posted please!

XOXOXO


http://www.myheartsisters.org

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Hi Mary-
Tell your mom to get her big girl panties on and have the heart cath. There isn't anything to be afraid of and it is the best way to get a diagnosis. Everyone will feel much better after she has it done. Especially your mom.

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Great advice here. I was one of those people terrified of having a cardiac cath and this was way back in 1978 when I was 25. Couldn't talk the doc out of it and as he was finishing up, he looked over and asked how it was for me. I remember telling him it was better than a trip to the dentist. He thought this was hysterical, but I really did hate trips to the dentist.

It is an outstanding diagnostic tool and so please help your mom work through any fears she's facing.
Rudywg

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Hello Mary,
This is urgent. Your mother needs to know that she could have a heart attack from a blockage at any time. I had a cath on April 10th. My fear was that I was going to have a bypass. I had 95 percent blockage and had three stents put in. I am a new person. My energy level is unbelievable. Heart attacks damage the heart permanently. This procedure is minimal compared to a bypass. My father had a silent heart attack at 50 and at 59 he had a bypass. He broke the wires loose and they had to go back in and rewire him up. Let your mom know that the cath is like a scope on the knee and a bypass is like a total knee replacement. If she waits, her recovery time will be months. I was back to work in less than a week.
Good Luck!

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I had an angioplasty (cardiac cath) in March after I had a heart attack. My cardiologist is a woman and she recommended that I have this done. After everything I've learned, I'd take the angioplasty over the bypass. Usually, patients go home the next day or even the same day. This might be different in your case - I'm in Canada and it might not be the same in the USA. Hope your mother does well.

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Tell your mom that she'll end up having the cath after her heart attack anyway. The difference is now she doesn't have the muscle damage that goes along with a heart attack. That can be prevented. They are scary but believe it or not nowadays they are fairly routine and complications seem to be rare. I've had like 18 of them & I'm only 42.

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Hi Mary -- one additional thought after re-reading what your mom has had tested so far. Has she worn a Holter monitor for 24-hours?? This is like a mobile EKG that you wear under your clothes. When the little device is returned to the Doc, they can read what's been happening over the intervening hours. If your mom's "palpitations" are intermittent, the Holter would pick them up and measure them, etc. I was supposed to have worn one of these (before my heart block) but the drs instructions got lost and I was never contacted to come in....too bad because I think it would have shown what was happening to me over 24 hours. If your mom has done this, talk to the dr about getting hooked up right away. Hugs, laurali

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Hi Mary,

I had one just two weeks ago. The stress test showed lack of blood flow to the front of my heart. I had the cardiac cath done. Thank God I did. Had over a 90% blockage in the LAD (main artery). The doctor put a stent in. Feel much better. I am 54 years old, always had great cholestorol numbers, no high blood pressure, always ate right. The doctor said it was heredity. The only symptoms I had were heartburn down the middle of my chest, and more palpitations then I normally should get with mitral valve prolapse. The heartburn is gone, the palpitations have lessened by 95%. The only downfall is the meds I take now, Plavix, aspirin, blood pressure meds, cholestoral med. But all in all its much better than the alternative! No one was more afraid than me, tell your Mom she will be fine. They give you "Happy Juice", a relaxing med, which allows you to be awake, but not nervous at all. And I am a all natural person, but even I admitted to needing it. She will be much better afterwards. God Bless you and Her!!

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Hi Mary

I am gonna have an angiogram. After putting it off for over a year , I am now on the waiting list. Could be another 10 weeks. But I am having to use nitro spray on top of patches and its often still not relieving the pain. My Dr wasnt worried when I told him that , thinks I certainly dont have any blockages due to my passing other tests. I hope I dont either but feel somewhat relieved that now I am gonna have a test to find out for sure. Just hope it goes smoothly, accidents or bad reactions are so easy to happen.
But I dont feel I have much choice now.
Best wishes

Hana


Hana

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Hi Mary,
I had a cardiac cath 5 mon ago and Im so glad I did!!!
It changed my life!! I have more energy and can exercise without tireing so much!! Any way I had a 99% blockage in one of my arteries and they caught
it in time before I had a Major heart attack.I had similar sxs as your mom and went to E.R. and they(cardiologist)suggested I do that and did and very very releived!!!I went through it with no problem!!
Do it as soon as possible so your Mom can enjoy her life again.Im even enjoying mine more!Take care!Kimberly

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Thank you so much for all of your thoughts. My mother ended up going to a female cardiologist who doesn't believe that she needs the cardiac cath. The important thing is that my mom feels much more comfortable with this doctor, and trusts her. I don't think that women should discount the role that hormones play on their heart...I'm really glad that she's found a doctor that understands this and can take care of her!

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Great, Im so happy she did!! Take care,Kimberly

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