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Catheters for measuring pressure for cardiac output can be positioned deep within the arterial system by allowing the movement of blood to assist a small balloon, mounted on the catheter, to lead it to the required position within the heart or major vessels. The Swan-Ganz catheter is an example of a flow- directed catheter which can be passed from a peripheral artery through the chambers of the heart and into the pulmonary artery. From here it can be moved to wedge in a smaller vessel in the pulmonary vascular system for measuring pressure in the capillary bed (wedge pressure). Other catheters may be used for measuring pressures, or for delivering or sampling dye in the great vessels or in the coronary artery, for cardiac output measurement or X- ray contrast procedures.
A major advantage of flow-directed catheters is that they can be positioned without using fluoroscopy and may thus be used in intensive care as well as in the cardiac catheter laboratory. They can also be left in position in order to monitor changes in pressure or cardiac output.
Content and Design Copyright 2000 Dr. Malcolm C Brown. See Title Page for more details