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Cardiac catheterization is a test for the heart and its blood supply. It uses a tube that is passed through blood vessels to the heart and a type of x-ray.
This test is used to find the cause of symptoms that may be due to heart problems. Cardiac catheterization can help a doctor:
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:
Leading up to the test, your doctor may order:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking or change the doses of some medicine before the procedure.
Leading up to your procedure:
A local anesthesia will be used at the insertion site.
A mild sedative may be given 1 hour before the procedure. It may also be given through an IV during the procedure. This will help you relax.
During the procedure:
You will be awake. Medicine will help you stay relaxed. The care team may ask you to do some tasks. This may include coughing, breathing out, and holding your breath. You will also need to tell the care team if you have problems. This may include chest pain, lightheadedness, nausea, tingling, or other discomfort.
An area in the groin or arm will be 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. It is then passed until it reaches your heart. A soft, flexible tube will then be slipped over the wire and passed up to your heart.
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An x-ray tool will show where the wire and catheter are. Dye will be passed into the arteries of the heart. This will highlight the arteries and heart on the x-ray images. You may feel a warm flush when the dye is injected.
The catheter can then take measurements. Pressure can be measured in the heart's different chambers. Blood samples may also be taken. Many images will be taken to look for any disease in the blood vessels. After all the tests and images are complete, the catheter will be removed.
Other procedures may be done if there is an artery that is narrow or clogged. This may include a balloon angioplasty and stenting. They will help to open the arteries up.
A bandage will be placed over the area when it is all done.
The procedure itself takes about 30-90 minutes. Total time will be several hours with recovery and preparation.
Although the procedure is generally not painful, it can cause some discomfort, including:
Pain medicines will be given when needed.
There will be some limits in the first few days. You will need to avoid heavy lifting and intense activity for 5-7 days. This will include avoiding sex until the doctor says it is safe to do so.
Follow lifestyle habits that will improve your heart health such as:
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
Call for medical help right away if you have symptoms including:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Cardiac catheterization. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/16832-cardiac-catheterization. Accessed July 3, 2018.
Cardiac catheterization. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/cardiac-catheterization. Updated April 26, 2013. Accessed July 3, 2018.
Preparing for cardiac catheterization. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/programs/heart/resources/preparing-for-cardiac-procedures-and-studies/cardiac-catheterization.html. Accessed July 3, 2018.
Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC Last Updated: 7/3/2018