Monday, 1 June 2015

So It's Been 5 Months, Eh? Let Me Tell You About Cardiac Cath Labs...

How I feel looking in the mirror now I have to get up early for placement...

Stardate: 92967.34

Well, aren't I just the worst blog owner? But in all fairness to myself, I have been entirely swamped by being a student radiographer. My placement in January got incredibly hectic, I've worked so many shifts at my part-time job, and then there's these evil little things our lecturers call 'exams' that recently came and went... But, finally I'm back on placement, so I'm going to be right back on track with this blog. I mean... I'm sure you've all missed it, right?

Now, if any of you readers are prospective students or currently a first year at the University of Leeds, let me give you another bit of advice... Second year is freaking hard. I have never felt so mentally drained in my life! And I've worked as a full-time supervisor in retail...  

Don't get me wrong, I still love my university and the course, because I know it'll be worth it in the end. Our lecturers do an amazing job, but there is just so much to cram into your head, you'll be begging June to come faster so the May exams are over. And I thought the January exams were tough! Never have I been so wrong...

But it's not all doom and gloom! Hooray! 

So, what are Cardiac Cath Labs, you ask? Well, in the UK, a Cath(eter) Lab is an examination room containing diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualise the arteries and chambers of the heart for treatments or investigations. They're staffed by a multidisciplinary team such as cardiac consultants, cardiac physiologists, nurses and radiographers. 

Typical examinations that occur in Cath Labs include:
  • Coronary catheterisation
  • Coronary angioplasty or Percutaenous Coronary Interventions - used to treat stenotic (narrowed) coronary arteries
  • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantations - the insertion of an artificial heart valve using catheters
  • Pacemaker implantations
  • Electrophysiological studies - e.g. mapping of the heart to locate heart abnormalities
  • and Cardiac ablations - a procedure that is used to scar small areas in the heart that may be causing a heart rhythm problem.
I managed to see a good range of procedures this week, but the most interesting I saw was probably the PCIs, as radiographers have a large role in the team. PCIs usually use a femoral (leg) or radial (forearm) artery to access the coronary arteries of the heart. Then through a 'sheath', a guide catheter is pushed to the opening of the coronary artery; this allows contrast (x-ray dye) to be injected into the artery. The size of the artery is then assessed to select what size balloon catheter will be used. The guide catheter is moved to the stenosis (narrowing), so the balloon catheter can inflate, forcing any 'plaque' to compress, and the arterial walls to expand.

I also saw a TAVI which involved a large team, and plenty of contrast to check the valve's operation. I watched as the valve was prepped, and the one I was lucky enough to see was made from hand-sewn strips, and formed from pig pericardium (a double-walled sac that contains the heart)! It's amazing how small the valves become before they're inserted, and then you get to see them deploy to their full size around the old valve site. Seeing the valve outside the body made me appreciate how much magnification is used in fluoroscopic imaging!

Unfortunately, there isn't too much I can say, as I only went to Cath Labs for 3 days, and it went by so quickly! And as a radiography student, we can only do so much in that department with our basic training. It seems I need to get used to the early mornings and placement again!

Next week I'm working the Late shifts over the weekend, but this time, not as a radiographer assistant, but as a student. So I'll probably have plenty to talk about!

Once again, sorry for the long delay, but I'm hoping to keep on track once more!



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