The pulmonary artery catheter is used when a doctor is trying to make a diagnosis. Doctors use the catheter to monitor therapy, watch the effects of some drugs, detect heart failure and sepsis. The pulmonary artery catheter works by allowing direct and simultaneous measurements of pressure. The pressure that is measured is in the right atrium, right ventricle and the pulmonary artery. It also measures the filling pressure of the left atrium. The pressure in the left atrium is also known as the wedge pressure.
The pulmonary artery catheter is also known by the name Swan-Ganz catheter. This diagnostic tool is used mostly in the intensive care unit so that close monitoring is possible. The catheter has a balloon on the tip that is inflated to hold it in place. The pulmonary artery catheter is usually placed through the internal jugular, subclavian or the femoral veins.
Use of the pulmonary artery catheter has some very serious possible complications. The most common complication is heart arrhythmia. There is also a chance of infection as well as blood clots, bleeding, pneumothorax, and rupture of the pulmonary artery. Some doctors believe that the risks of using this type of catheter are much higher than the benefits of using it. Because of this doctors try not to use the pulmonary artery catheter as much as it had been used before. Before allowing this procedure to be done you should weigh all your options so you can make sure it is something you need.