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Cardiac catheterization is a test for the heart and its blood supply. A wire is passed through blood vessels to the heart and images are taken with 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:
Other tests may have been done before cardiac catheterization. The doctor may review these tests before the procedure.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking or change the doses of some medicine before the procedure.
A cardiac catherization may be done as an emergency. If this is a scheduled procedure:
A local anesthesia will be used at the insertion site. It will numb the area and block pain.
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.
Fluids and medicines will be given through IV. An EKG will monitor the heart’s activity.
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.
Insertion of Catheter with Guide Wire through the Groin
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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 to 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.
The stay will depend on reason for the procedure. An overnight stay may be needed or you may go home the same day.
There will be some limits in the first few days. You will need to avoid heavy lifting and intense activity for 5 to 7 days.
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not going as you expect or you have problems 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 December, 3, 2020.
Cardiac catheterization. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/cardiac-catheterization. Accessed December, 3, 2020.
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 December, 3, 2020.
Last reviewed December 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 12/3/2020