Cardiac Catheterization

What is Cardiac Catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization (cardiac cath or heart cath) is a procedure to examine how well your heart is working. A thin, soft tube called a catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel that leads to your heart.

Why is a cardiac catheterization performed?

A cardiac cath provides information on how well your heart works, identifies problems and allows for procedures to open blocked arteries. For example, during cardiac cath your doctor may:

  • Take X-rays using contrast dye injected through the catheter to look for narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. This is called coronary angiography or coronary arteriography.
  • Perform a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) such as coronary angioplasty with stenting to open up narrowed or blocked segments of a coronary artery.
  • Check the pressure in the four chambers of your heart.
  • Take samples of blood to measure the oxygen content in the four chambers of your heart.
  • Evaluate the ability of the pumping chambers to contract.
  • Look for defects in the valves or chambers of your heart.

What should I expect during a cardiac catheterization?

The procedure is done in a hospital cardiac catheterization lab. Before the cath procedure, a nurse will put an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your arm so you can get medicine (sedative) to help you relax, but you’ll be awake and able to follow instructions during the procedure. The nurse will clean and shave the area where the doctor will be working. This is usually in the groin area. A local anesthetic is usually given to numb the needle puncture site.The doctor will make a needle puncture through your skin and into a large blood vessel.  A small straw-sized tube (called a sheath) will be inserted into the vessel. The doctor will gently guide a catheter (a long, thin tube) into your vessel through the sheath. A video screen will show the position of the catheter as it is threaded through the major blood vessels and to the heart. You may feel some pressure in your groin, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. Various instruments may be placed at the tip of the catheter. They include instruments to measure the pressure of blood in each heart chamber and in blood vessels connected to the heart, view the interior of blood vessels or take blood samples from different parts of the heart. 

 You will go to the recovery room after the procedure

During this time, you have to lie flat. Pressure will be applied to the puncture site to stop the bleeding. You will be asked to keep your leg straight and will not be able to get out of bed. Your heartbeat and other vital signs (pulse and blood pressure) will be checked during your recovery.  Before you leave the hospital, you will receive written instructions about what to do at home.

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Coronary Angioplasty /PCI

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also known as coronary angioplasty, is a nonsurgical procedure that improves blood flow to your heart. PCI requires cardiac catheterization, which is the insertion of a catheter tube and injection of contrast dye, usually iodine-based, into your coronary arteries. Doctors use PCI to open coronary arteries that are narrowed or blocked by the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque. PCI may be used to relieve symptoms of coronary heart disease or to reduce heart damage during or after a heart attack.