Cardiac Catheterization

You may have had angina, dizziness, or other symptoms of heart trouble. To help diagnose your problem, your doctor may suggest having a cardiac catheterization. This common procedure is sometimes also used to treat a heart problem.

Outline of human figure showing heart and major arteries with catheter inserted in leg artery and going up aorta into heart. Arrows mark catheter insertion sites at groin, wrist, and inner elbow.
Insertion sites may be in the groin or the arm.

Before the Procedure

  • Tell your doctor what medicines you take and about any allergies you have.

  • Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight, the night before the procedure.

  • You'll likely be admitted to the hospital on the day of the procedure.

  • Know that any hair on the skin where the catheter will be inserted may be removed. You may be given medication to relax before the procedure.

During the Procedure

  • You will receive a local anesthetic to prevent pain at the insertion site.

  • The doctor inserts an introducing sheath into a blood vessel in your groin or arm.

  • Through the sheath, a long, thin tube called a catheter is placed inside the artery and guided toward your heart.

  • To perform different tests or check other parts of the heart, the doctor inserts a new catheter or moves the catheter or x-ray machine.

  • For some tests, a contrast dye is injected through the catheter.

After the Procedure

  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you how long to lie down and keep the insertion site still.

  • If the insertion site was in your groin, you may need to lie down with your leg still for several hours.

  • A nurse will check your blood pressure and the insertion site.

  • You may be asked to drink fluid to help flush the contrast liquid out of your system.

  • Have someone drive you home from the hospital.

  • It’s normal to find a small bruise or lump at the insertion site. These common side effects should disappear within a few weeks.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Angina (chest pain).

  • Pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or drainage at the insertion site.

  • Severe pain, coldness, or a bluish color in the leg or arm that held the catheter.

  • Blood in your urine, black or tarry stools, or any other kind of bleeding.

  • Fever over 101.0°F.

Online Medical Reviewer: Garg, Manish, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jey, Arthur Ricardo, MDMD
Last Review Date: 3/26/2012
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