Cardiac catheterization involves passing a thin flexible tube (catheter) into the right or left side of the heart, usually from the groin or the arm.
Catheterization - cardiac; Heart catheterization
How the Test is Performed
You will be given medicine before the test to help you relax. The health care provider cleans a site on your arm, neck, or groin and inserts a line into one of your blood vessels. This is called an intravenous (IV) line.
A thin tube called a catheter is placed through the IV and into your blood vessel in the leg or neck. The health care provider is carefully moved up into the heart using live x-rays as a guide. Then the doctor can:
- Collect blood samples from the heart
- Measure pressure and blood flow in the heart's chambers and in the large arteries around the heart
- Measure the oxygen in different parts of your heart
- Examine the arteries of the heart
- Perform a biopsy on the heart muscle
The test may last 30 - 60 minutes. After the test, the catheter is removed. If the catheter is placed in your groin, you will usually be asked to lie flat on your back for a few hours after the test to avoid bleeding.
How to Prepare for the Test
If possible, you will be asked not to eat or drink for 6 - 8 hours before the test. The test takes place in a hospital and you will be asked to wear a hospital gown. Sometimes, you will need to spend the night before the test in the hospital. Otherwise, you will be admitted as an outpatient or an inpatient the morning of the procedure.
Your health care provider should explain the procedure and its risks. A witnessed, signed consent for the procedure is required.
Tell your doctor if you:
- Are allergic to seafood
- Have had a bad reaction to contrast dye or iodine in the past
- Take any medicines, including Viagra
- Might be pregnant
How the Test Will Feel
The study is done by trained cardiologists with the assistance of trained technicians and nurses.
You will be awake and able to follow instructions during the test.
You may feel some discomfort or pressure where the catheter is placed. Some people have some discomfort from lying still during the test or from lying fat on your back after the procedure.
Why the Test is Performed
In general, this procedure is done to get information about the heart or its blood vessels or to provide treatment in certain types of heart conditions. It may also be used to determine the need for heart surgery.
Your doctor may perform cardiac catheterization to diagnose or evaluate:
The following procedures may also be done using cardiac catheterization:
- Repair of certain types of heart defects
- Repair of a stuck (stenotic) heart valve
- Opening of blocked arteries or grafts in the heart
What Abnormal Results Mean
The procedure can identify heart defects or disease, such as:
The procedure also may be performed for the following:
Cardiac catheterization carries a slightly higher risk than other heart tests, but is very safe when performed by an experienced team.
Generally, the risks include the following:
Possible complications of any type of catheterization include the following:
- Bleeding, infection, and pain at the IV site
- Damage to the blood vessels
- Blood clots
- Kidney damage due to the contrast dye (particularly in patients with diabetes)
In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 20 Cardiac catheterization
Fraker TD Jr, Fihn SD, Gibbons RJ, Abrams J, Chatterjee K, Daley J et al. 2007 chronic angina focused update of the ACC/AHA 2002 Guidelines for the management of patients with chronic stable angina: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines Writing Group to develop the focused update of the 2002 Guidelines for the management of patients with chronic stable angina. Circulation. 2007;116:2762-2772.
David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington.
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