What is Cardiac catheterization?


Know the basics

What is Cardiac catheterization?

A cardiac catheterization, or coronary angiogram, is a test to find out if you have any problems with the coronary arteries (blood vessels that supply your heart muscle with oxygen), and how well the pumping chambers and valves in your heart are working.

A cardiac catheterization will give your doctor information about your heart that they cannot always get from other tests.

Why is Cardiac catheterization performed?

You would be asked to have a cardiac catheterization if your doctor may be concerned that you have narrowed or blocked coronary arteries, damaged or faulty heart valves, or a weak heart muscle.

Understand the risks

What are the risks of Cardiac catheterization?

The heart and blood vessels are difficult to see on X-ray images. Contrast agents (also known as contrast media or dye) are often used during the examination to highlight heart muscles and blood vessels, and make them easier to see. The dye is a colorless liquid called a contrast agent and usually contains iodine. The dye shows up as a black shadow on X-ray images.

The contrast dye used during an angiogram is usually iodine-based. Iodine-based contrast dyes are clear liquids and usually excreted harmlessly in the urine or faces. However, there is a small risk of having an allergic reaction, so it’s important to tell your doctor if you have any type of allergy, particularly to seafood (which contains iodine). If you have skin allergies or asthma, you may be more likely to be allergic to the contrast agent.

As with most procedures done on your heart and blood vessels, cardiac catheterization has some risks. Major complications are rare, though.

Risks of cardiac catheterization are:

  • Bruising;
  • Bleeding;
  • Heart attack;
  • Stroke;
  • Damage to the artery where the catheter was inserted that may require additional attention (pseudo aneurysm);
  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias);
  • Allergic reactions to the dye or medication;
  • Tearing the tissue of your heart or artery;
  • Kidney damage;
  • Infection;
  • Blood clots.

It is important you understand the risks and complications before having this surgery. If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.

Know what happens

How do I prepare for Cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is usually performed in the hospital. The test requires some preparations. To prepare for your test:

  • Don’t eat or drink anything for at least 6 hours before your test, or as directed by your doctor.
  • Take all your medications and supplements with you to the test.
  • Try to relax. Being nervous may cause your heart to beat more quickly or irregularly and may complicate the procedure.

Once you have checked in for your catheterization, you’ll have your blood pressure and pulse checked. You’ll be asked to use the toilet to empty your bladder. You’ll be asked to remove dentures and may need to remove jewelry, especially necklaces that could interfere with pictures of your heart. You’ll wait in a pre-operating room until it’s time for your procedure — you can often have someone wait there with you.

What happens during Cardiac catheterization?

A cardiac catheterization usually takes about 30 minutes.

If appropriate, your cardiologist may offer you a sedative or painkiller.

A sheath (short, soft plastic tube used to access your artery) is usually inserted in your femoral artery near your groin or your radial artery near your wrist. Your cardiologist will insert a catheter (long, narrow plastic tube) through the sheath and along your artery to your heart. Your cardiologist will inject dye into the catheter so they can take x-rays to find out exactly where your coronary arteries have narrowed.

If you have any questions or concerns, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.


What happens after Cardiac catheterization?

You should be able to go home the same day.

If the sheath was inserted in your groin, do not drive for two days.

Your doctor may arrange for you to come back to the clinic to tell you the results and to discuss any treatment or follow-up you need.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: September 6, 2018 | Last Modified: September 6, 2018

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