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Cardiac Catheterization

What is cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure done on the heart. This test measures blood pressure within the heart and how much oxygen is in the blood, as well as the strength of the pumping ability of the heart muscle. Depending on what your doctor finds, he or she may choose to treat any blockages at the same time.

How is the test performed?

A doctor inserts a thin plastic tube, called a catheter, into an artery in the groin and threads the catheter to the heart. The catheter is inserted into the chambers of the heart or into the coronary arteries.

Catheters are also used to inject dye into the coronary arteries. This is called angiography. The dye can show whether plaque has narrowed or blocked any of your heart’s arteries, called coronary arteries.

Blockages in the arteries also can be seen using ultrasound during cardiac catheterization. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create detailed pictures of the heart’s blood vessels. Doctors may take samples of blood and heart muscle during cardiac catheterization.

What should I expect?

You will be given mild sedation before the procedure. While the procedure causes little to no pain, you may feel a warm sensation when the dye is injected into the blood vessel. After the doctor finishes the procedure, the catheter is withdrawn and the insertion site cleaned and bandaged.

After the procedure, you will be asked to lie flat for four to six hours. Your nurse will perform pulse and blood pressure checks and monitor the catheter insertion site. After you return home (which is usually the same day) you should avoid lifting heavy objects for several days. You may feel some soreness in the blood vessel where your doctor put the catheter.

Cardiac catheterization rarely causes serious complications.