Cardiac Catheterization: A Patient Guide

What is cardiac catheterization?

A diagnostic procedure performed to detect problems with the heart and its blood supply a catheter is inserted into the body through an artery or vein. A catheter is a long thin tube through which the doctor can measure pressure or inject a contrast medium (or dye) that can be seen on fluoroscopy or x-ray. Because an iodine-related dye is injected into your bloodstream during the procedure, please advise your physician if you have a history of being allergic to shellfish, medications and/or X-ray dye. A catheterization will provide a great deal of information about your heart function. It demonstrates the heart's pumping ability, the pressure within the various heart chambers, detailed structure and flow information about the heart and blood vessels.

How long does the procedure take? Are there any other tests involved? Will I have to stay overnight in the hospital?

The catheterization itself normally takes 30 to 180 minutes; however, prior to your procedure you will need to have some blood tests, chest X-rays and an electrocardiogram (ECG) performed either the day before, or the day that the catheterization is performed. Patients do not usually have to stay overnight for the catheterization, however, an overnight stay may be warranted if your medical condition warrants it.

Will this take place in an operating room?

No, cardiac catheterization takes place in a special cardiac catheterization laboratory. This is a sterile environment (all medical personnel will wear gowns, masks and gloves), and there is equipment present which is specific to this type of procedure. Some of the specialized equipment includes an X-ray movie camera, which takes pictures of your chest from various angles; there also will be a television monitor present that will allow the doctors to see your heart as it functions. Your heart and blood pressure will be monitored throughout the procedure.

Where and how do they insert the catheter? Will I be under general anesthetic? Does it hurt?

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