Our Cardiac Catheterization (Cath) Lab provides patients with state-of-the-art care, right here in Marin. The community counts on us for the following:

    • The only full-service cardiac cath lab in Marin
    • A highly skilled team, available 24/7
    • Rapid door-to-treatment time for a better chance of surviving a heart attack
    • Emergency department physicians and staff with specific training in assessment of chest pain, EKG, and labs, to rapidly diagnose heart attacks
    • Communication between paramedics who perform remote electrocardiograms and transmit the information to our Emergency Department before the patient arrives

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a test that evaluates the presence, size, and location of plaque deposits in the arteries, the strength of the heart muscle, and the function of the heart valves. During cardiac catheterization, a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel, usually in the leg or wrist, and gently guided toward the heart. Contrast is injected into the arteries of the heart so that the cardiologist can trace the movement of blood through the arteries and the chambers of the heart.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)

Also known as angioplasty, PCI can be an emergency treatment for a heart attack patient, or a scheduled procedure to treat chronically inadequate blood flow to the heart. The goal of PCI is to open up a coronary artery to restore blood flow. A cardiologist will choose the most appropriate "tool" to repair the heart vessels, depending on the patient's unique anatomy. One or all of the devices below may be used:

    • Stent Implantion
      After balloon angioplasty or atherectomy, a stent may be placed in the artery. A stent is a small metal coil or mesh tube. The stent is placed at the end of a catheter, inserted through a blood vessel in the leg or wrist, and guided to the heart, where it is used to keep newly opened arteries from collapsing.
    • Atherectomy
      This is a procedure to open hardened blockages in the coronary arteries using a special pulverizing device. This is often performed during a balloon angioplasty. In many cases, an expandable device, called a stent, is inserted into the blockage.
    • Balloon Angioplasty 
      Balloon angioplasty improves blood flow to the heart. A catheter with a balloon at its tip is guided up to the blocked artery. The balloon is inflated at the site of the blockage, stretching open the walls of the artery.

Emergency and "Rescue" Procedures: Hypothermia/Intraortic Balloon Pump

Rarely, advanced procedures become necessary to rescue a patient whose condition is truly dire. We have among the longest experience in the Bay Area with these techniques, which include intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation (IABP) and other ventricular assistance devices, and hypothermia. With the IABP device, we can literally assist the heart’s pumping action using a large balloon-tipped catheter that inflates and deflates in time with the heartbeat, augmenting flow in critical situations. Hypothermic cooling is available at a fraction of hospitals nationwide: patients who have suffered cardiac arrest are quickly cooled to approximately 91 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the metabolic rate of the brain to slow, protecting it from damage. Although we hope never to need to use these sorts of techniques, they are immediately available if the situation arises.

Patent Foramen Ovale Closure

One of the more common congenital abnormalities is the patent foramen ovale, a condition in which a small communication between the left and right atria (heart chambers) does not close normally at birth. Sometimes, these need to be closed, and until recently this required open heart surgery. In our Cardiac Cath Lab, we are able to close these holes with an innovative, catheter-based technique, performed similarly to an angioplasty procedure.