Cardiac catheterization is an imaging procedure used to diagnose and treat some heart conditions, including arterial narrowing or blockage. The results of the catheterization will help your doctor plan the next step in your treatment.
During the procedure, a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in your arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck and threaded to your heart. Through the catheter, your doctor can conduct diagnostic tests and some types of treatment on your heart.
In a test called coronary angiography, your doctor will put a special type of dye in the catheter. The dye will flow through your bloodstream and make your coronary (heart) arteries visible on a special type of camera. The dye can show whether a waxy substance called plaque has built up inside your coronary arteries. Plaque can narrow or block these (and other) arteries and restrict blood flow to your heart. This buildup is called coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease. Your doctor will take pictures of your heart and its arteries.
Doctors can also use ultrasound during catheterization to see blockages in the coronary arteries. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create detailed pictures of the heart’s blood vessels.
Cardiac catheterization rarely causes serious complications.