A Day in the Life: the Cardiac Cath Lab

A Day in the Life: the Cardiac Cath Lab

The Cath Lab team gathers for our morning huddle; we discuss any issues that came up the day before and talk about the upcoming day—a case at 0800, another at 0830. The schedule doesn’t look too bad. 

All of a sudden, four beepers go off. It’s the sound of a C-port STEMI, an ST elevation myocardial infarction. Like clockwork we prepare for the case—entering orders into the computers and x-ray equipment, preparing meds, prepping the procedure tray. 

Our patient arrives from the ED. He’s 42 years old, pale, diaphoretic, and scared. Despite receiving medication to control his chest pain, he’s an eight out of ten on the pain scale. As we move him to our procedure table, he whispers, “Don’t let me die.” 

We need to work quickly to find the blockage, but stop to reassure the patient he’s in good hands—we are working quickly to relieve his pain and stop his heart attack. 

In a matter of minutes, the patient is prepped and monitored, medications are readied, and we are ready to begin the procedure.  

The physician arrives. The patient receives medication for pain and sedation and the case begins. The “culprit”—a thrombus blocking the coronary artery—is located. The doctor works quickly but carefully to open the vessel, first using a catheter to extract the thrombus, then placing a stent to ensure the artery will remain open.

The patient is no longer having pain, color has returned to his face, and now he can smile. In fact, within moments, he’s asking about his discharge plans. We know he’s going to need to be reminded he’s just had a heart attack.

The patient goes to the CCU for recovery. The Cath Lab team regroups as their adrenaline levels normalize, ready to begin with the day’s scheduled cases.

-Debbie Whitehead, RN, CCRN

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