Cardiac Catheterization

What is it?

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please be assured that we make every attempt to minimize any and all discomfort associated with the procedure. You will be sedated during catheterization, and it causes little or no pain. There may be some discomfort involved while we numb the area and get access to your artery. Many patients remark that it is very easy and without any significant discomfort. You may feel some soreness afterward in the blood vessel where the catheter was inserted.

You should arrange transportation to and from the clinic, and bring a current medication and allergy list.

You may eat and drink normally until the midnight before your procedure. You should also follow the instructions given by our staff members during your preoperative phone call.

You will asked about allergies multiple times before your procedure. If you are allergic to x-ray dye, iodine, or shellfish, you will be given additional medication to prevent an allergic reaction.

A responsible adult must accompany you to the center, receive discharge instructions, and drive you home. We recommend that someone stay with you for the first 24 hours following the procedure.

Cool temperatures help keep infection rates low, and our equipment is most efficient at these temperatures. We have an ample supply of warm blankets to keep you comfortable during your procedure.

The artery in your right wrist is generally used for the procedure. However, your cardiologist may use your right or left groin or left wrist.

Getting access into an artery is just like starting an IV, so no incision is necessary. The catheter inserted into your artery is usually as wide as a coffee stirrer, but it depends on the procedure being performed.

It depends on the procedure being performed. If the catheterization is done through the leg you’ll lie quietly on your back for several hours; during this time the staff will check for any signs of bleeding or chest discomfort. If the procedure is done through the arm, you won’t need to remain in bed.

If your procedure is done through your wrist only, you can eat immediately after the procedure. If the procedure is done through the groin, you will not be able to eat until the sheaths are removed. This time will vary.

Numerous clinical studies have determined that the radiation dose you receive is safe and your risk is minimal. Our staff work in the radiation all day, so they need to protect themselves by wearing lead and using shields.