(Coronary Angiography; Coronary Arteriography; Coronary Angiogram)
by Editorial Staff and Contributors
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
Cardiac catheterization is a test that uses a catheter (tube) and x-ray machine to check the heart and its blood supply.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
Cardiac catheterization is used to find the cause of symptoms, like chest pain, that could suggest heart problems.
Cardiac catheterization helps doctors:
Possible Complications TOP
If you are planning to have cardiac catheterization, your doctor will review a list of possible complications. Complications may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may order:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines before the procedure, like:
Leading up to your procedure:
Local anesthesia will be used at the insertion site. A mild sedative may be given one hour before the procedure or through an IV during the procedure. This will help you relax.
Description of the Procedure
During the procedure, you will receive IV fluids and medicines. An EKG will be monitoring your heart's activity.
You will be awake but sedated so that you will be more relaxed. Your doctor will ask you to perform basic functions such as coughing, breathing out, and holding your breath. Tell your doctor if you feel any chest pain, dizziness, nausea, tingling, or other discomfort.
The catheter will be inserted into an artery in either the groin or arm. It is usually inserted at the crease opposite the elbow or at the wrist. The insertion area will be shaved, cleaned, and numbed. A needle will be inserted into a blood vessel. A wire will be passed through the needle and into the blood vessel. The wire will then be guided through until it reaches your heart. A soft, flexible catheter tube will then be slipped over the wire and threaded up to your heart.
The doctor will be taking x-ray pictures during the procedure to know where the wire and catheter are. Dye will be injected into the arteries of the heart. This will make the arteries and heart show up on the x-ray images. You may feel warm during the dye injection.
Once in place, the catheter can be used to take measurements. Blood pressure can be taken within the heart's different chambers. Blood samples may also be taken. Multiple x-ray images will be taken to look for any disease in the arteries. An aortogram may also be done at this time. This step will give a clear image of the aorta. After all the tests and images are complete, the catheter will be removed.
Sometimes, the doctor will do a balloon angioplasty and stenting if he finds an area in your arteries that is narrow or clogged. These procedures help to open narrowed arteries.
Finally, a bandage will be placed over the groin or arm area.
How Long Will It Take?
The procedure takes about 1-2 hours. Preparation before the test will take another 1-2 hours.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Although the procedure is generally not painful, it can cause some discomfort, including:
Pain medicine will be given when needed.
Average Hospital Stay
At the Care Center
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor TOP
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Cardiac catheterization. CardioSmart website. Available at: http://cardiosmart.org/HeartDisease/CTT.aspx?id=318. Accessed January 23, 2013.
Cardiac catheterization. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelan.... Accessed January 23, 2013.
Preparing for cardiac catheterization, angiography, and electrophysiology studies. Cedars Sinai Hospital website. Available at: http://cedars-sina.... Accessed January 23, 2013.
What is cardiac catheterization? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cath/. Updated January 30, 2012. Accessed January 23, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 1/23/2013