Cardiac Catheterization

What is cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is used to diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions. During a catheterization, angiograms (X-ray videos), pressure recordings, and other measurements help your cardiologist check for coronary artery disease (disease in the heart's arteries), valvular heart disease (disease in the heart’s valves), congenital heart disease (heart disease you were born with), and other conditions. This is one of the most helpful procedures for giving your physician a clear picture of your heart’s overall health.

How is it performed?

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. Once the catheter is positioned, the pressure of the blood in various chambers of the heart can be measured, blood samples can be taken, and dye (radiographic contrast material) can be injected (a process called angiography) to allow X-ray visualization. Unlike bones which are easily seen on X-ray, the heart and blood vessels cannot be seen by X-ray unless they are filled with contrast dye.

Some heart disease treatments, such as coronary angioplasty, also are done using cardiac catheterization. You will usually be awake during cardiac catheterization, but you will be given medications to help you relax. Recovery time for a cardiac catheterization is quick, and there's a low risk of complications.

What happens after cardiac catheterization?

You will go to a recovery room for a few hours. During this time:

  • You have to lie flat.
  • Pressure will be applied to the puncture site to stop the bleeding.
  • If the procedure was done through your leg, you will be asked to keep your leg straight and will not be able to get out of bed for several hours.
  • Your heartbeat and other vital signs (pulse and blood pressure) will be checked during your recovery. 
  • Report any swelling, pain or bleeding at the puncture site, or if you have chest pain.

Before you leave the hospital, you will receive written instructions about what to do at home.

What happens after I go home?

Be sure to carefully follow all instructions. It is important to take your medications as directed by your health care provider and to make follow-up appointments before leaving the hospital. Most people can return to their normal activities the day after the procedure, depending on whether any additional interventions were done during the cardiac cath.

A small bruise at the puncture site is normal. If the site starts to bleed, lie flat, apply pressure, and call 911. 

For more information, contact Traverse Heart & Vascular at 800-637-4033.