Cardiac catheterization (kath-uh-tur-ih-ZAY-shun) is a procedure used to diagnose and treat certain cardiovascular conditions. During cardiac catheterization, a long thin tube called a catheter is inserted in an artery or vein in your groin, neck or arm and threaded through your blood vessels to your heart.
Using this catheter, doctors can then do diagnostic tests as part of a cardiac catheterization. Some heart disease treatments, such as coronary angioplasty and coronary stenting, also are done using cardiac catheterization.
Usually, you’ll be awake during cardiac catheterization but be given medications to help you relax. Recovery time for a cardiac catheterization is quick, and there’s a low risk of complications.
Why it’s done
Cardiac catheterization is done to see if you have a heart problem. It can also be done as part of a procedure to correct a known heart problem.
If you’re having cardiac catheterization as a test for heart disease, your doctor can:
• Locate narrowing or blockages in your blood vessels that could cause chest pain (angiogram)
• Measure pressure and oxygen levels in different parts of your heart (hemodynamic assessment)
• Check the pumping function of your heart (right or left ventriculogram)
• Take a sample of tissue from your heart (biopsy)
• Diagnose heart defects present from birth (congenital heart defects)
• Look for problems with your heart valves
Cardiac catheterization is also used as part of some procedures to treat heart disease. These procedures include:
• Widening a narrowed artery (angioplasty) with or without stent placement
• Closing holes in the heart and fixing other congenital defects
• Repairing or replacing heart valves
• Opening narrow heart valves (balloon valvuloplasty)
• Treating irregular heart rhythms with ablation
• Closing off part of your heart to prevent blood clots
After the procedure
You’ll likely spend several hours in a recovery room after the procedure while the anesthesia wears off. The plastic sheath inserted in your groin, neck or arm is usually removed soon after the procedure.
After you leave the recovery room, you’ll go to a regular hospital or outpatient room. After your catheter is removed, the technician or nurse who has removed your sheath will apply pressure to the insertion sites. If the groin is used, you’ll need to lie flat for several hours after the procedure to avoid serious bleeding and to allow the artery to heal.
You’ll be able to eat and drink after the procedure. The length of your stay in the hospital will depend on your condition. You may be able to go home the same day as your catheterization, or you may need to stay overnight or longer if you have an additional procedure, such as angioplasty and stent placement.