Inside your heart – as captured by National Geographic

Here’s how your heart looks during a coronary angiography procedure. The white/yellow blood vessels are bringing oxygenated blood to the working muscles of the heart.  (See link below to the whole slide show).

Coronary angiography (also called cardiac catheterization) is sometimes referred to as the ‘gold standard’ of diagnostics for heart patients. The procedure involves threading a tiny catheter through an artery in the wrist or groin and pushing it up, up, up right into the beating heart. It’s considered to be an invasive procedure, but not surgical. Patients are sedated, but usually awake throughout.

The catheter is guided through the artery with the aid of a special x-ray machine. Contrast material (dye) is injected through the catheter and x-ray movies are created as the contrast material moves through the heart’s chambers, valves and major vessels.

The interventional cardiologists in the ‘cath lab’ then watch your beating heart up on the monitor, where they can spot any coronary arteries that are blocked or narrowed, and evaluate your heart function. If significant blockages are seen, further procedures like balloon angioplasty, stent implants or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) – commonly known as bypass surgery – may be attempted to restore blood flow to the threatened heart muscle.

I’ve undergone two of these invasive cardiac procedures – the first an emergency catheterization and stent implant when I was hospitalized for a heart attack, the second 15 months later to investigate ongoing cardiac symptoms. And I can tell you that it is freakishly fascinating to lie on the cath lab table, sedated yet very awake, and watch your own beating heart on the overhead monitor.  

Coronary angiography was developed at the world-famous Cleveland Clinic back in 1958 by Dr. F. Mason Sones. It’s usually used to:

  • evaluate or confirm the presence of obstructive coronary artery disease, valve disease, or disease of the aorta
  • evaluate heart muscle function
  • determine the need for further treatment (such as an interventional procedure like balloon angioplasty, stent implantation, or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) commonly known as bypass surgery

Learn more from the Cleveland Clinic about cardiac catheterization.

And watch this amazing National Geographic slide show about the human heart.

4 thoughts on “Inside your heart – as captured by National Geographic

  1. I had a heart catherization just last Friday and still didn’t totally understand the entire procedure.

    Thank you for this National Geographic image and the full explanation.

    Unfortunately I wasn’t able to have stents. I am looking at quadruple bypass surgery as soon as the surgeon can book it, which he said would be in the next week or two. There was no damage done to my heart in the attack, but he doesn’t want to postpone it in case of another that might damage it. I will be glad when it’s all over. Trouble sleeping and relaxing, which they tell me is absolutely normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have had a total of 14 heart catherizations done.

    I have 6 stents as of today. They truly are a fascinating procedure, and I am so blessed that I have been able to have the arteries opened and the stents placed.

    I had a heart attack in February and was so worried I would need open heart surgery, but my doctor was able to stent the artery that caused the problem. I am doing cardiac rehab now and doing quite well.

    I am so glad I found this site. It is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My Mom has an angio booked for next week – perfect timing – so I’ve printed this off for her to read. Good explanation here of a complex cardiac procedure, and very helpful link too. Thx for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing images on this Natl Geogr link! Thanks so very much for pointing us to this resource and also for the very interesting background info on what an angiogram is all about. I sincerely hope your “ongoing” symptoms are addressed and you will just be writing about angiograms, not having to undergo another one.

    Liked by 1 person

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