Cardiac Catheterization

Definition

photo of doctor

Also called coronary angiography, coronary arteriography or coronary angiogram, these procedures are done to detect problems with the heart and its blood supply.

Reasons for Procedure

It is generally done after an individual experiences symptoms that could mean heart problems, like chest pain.

Cardiac catheterization helps doctors to:

  • Identify narrowed or clogged arteries of the heart
  • Measure blood pressure within the heart
  • Evaluate how well the heart valves function
  • Determine how well the four chambers of the heart function
  • Check for congenital heart defects
  • Evaluate an enlarged heart
  • Decide on an appropriate treatment

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

  • Allergies to medications, shellfish, or x-ray dye
  • Asthma
  • Pre-existing heart or lung conditions
  • Obesity
  • Serious recent or chronic illness
  • Bleeding disorder
  • Kidney disease

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor will likely do:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)—a test that records the heart's activity by measuring electrical currents through the heart muscle
  • Chest x-ray
  • Stress test

In the days leading up to your procedure:

  • Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure
  • Check with your physician regarding eating or drinking before the procedure and if you should take your medications.

Anesthesia

Local anesthesia is applied to the insertion site. A mild sedative may be given before the procedure or through the IV during the procedure. General anesthesia is not typically required.

Description of the Procedure

During the procedure you will receive IV fluids and medications. An EKG will be monitoring your heart's activity. You'll be awake, but sedated so that you'll be more relaxed and less anxious. Your doctor asks you to perform basic functions such as coughing, exhaling, and holding your breath. If you feel any chest pain, dizziness, nausea, tingling, or other discomfort, tell your doctor.

The catheter is threaded over a guide wire, inserted into an artery in your leg, and fed up and into the heart. Your doctor watches the threading and placement of the catheter with a fluoroscopy, which is a type of x-ray that takes pictures of moving organs.