What is cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is test we perform to check your heart. We inject you with a special dye and then use x-ray images to assess how your heart is functioning. It allows us to evaluate:

  • Blockages in the heart
  • Pressure inside the heart and lungs
  • Structures connected to the heart (such as the pericardium, or fibrous sac or membrane surrounding the heart)
  • Heart valves
  • Blood flow in the coronary arteries
  • Defects in how the wall of the heart moves

Why would I need a cardiac catheterization?

We may request that you have a cardiac catheterization based off of echocardiogram results or stress test results. We may also want you to have this test done if you are experiencing certain symptoms.

What should I expect during the procedure?

You will come to a small operating room called the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory in the hospital. There you will meet the team who will be assisting in the procedure, which includes our cardiologist, a technology assistant, a nurse, and a recording technologist who records all of the events of the procedure.

You will be given a “conscious sedation,” which means you will be in “twilight state” where you may doze or sleep during the procedure. Some patients may require heavy sedation, although it is unusual. In this case, an anesthesiologist will assist.

Once you are in the twilight state, the cardiologist will make a very small incision on your arm or leg to gain access to an artery. The incision is so small it will not require stitches.  Then, a long, thin, flexible tube (called a catheter) is passed through the artery and directed toward your heart using X-ray images. The tube is then used to inject dye (called contrast) into the arteries of your heart. The dye will flow through your blood, allowing us to see a clear picture of the coronary arteries, the ventricles of the heart (the pumping parts of the heart), and the valve function in the X-ray images. It will also let us see if there is plaque built up inside your heart, which restricts blood flow. Once the procedure is over, manual pressure will be held over the incision on your arm or leg. We may also use a collagen plug to close the tiny puncture site in the artery, which dissolves on its own.

Is a cardiac catheterization procedure painful?

Generally, a cardiac catheterization is not painful. You may feel some pressure as the catheter is inserted.

How do I prepare for the procedure?

Please view the Cardiac Catheterization Preparation page.