Cardiac Catherization

If you’ve had angina, dizziness, shortness of breath or other symptoms of heart disease, your cardiologist may recommend a cardiac catheterization. This minimally invasive procedure can be used to treat a cardiovascular problem or to investigate a heart ailment.

A cardiac catheter can be used to perform a number of procedures, including angioplasty or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

Before Your Cardiac Catheterization

  • Tell your doctor what medicines you take and about any allergies you have.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before the procedure.
  • You'll likely be admitted to the hospital on the day of the procedure.
  • Know that any hair on the skin where the catheter will be inserted may be removed.
  • Arrange for an adult family member or friend to drive you home from the hospital.
  • You may be given medication to relax.

During the Cardiac Catheterization

  • You will receive a local anesthetic to prevent pain at the insertion site.
  • The doctor will insert an introducing sheath into a blood vessel in your groin or arm.
  • Through the sheath, a catheter is placed inside the artery and guided toward your heart.
  • To perform different tests on or check other parts of the heart, the doctor inserts a new catheter or moves the catheter or X-ray machine.
  • For some tests, a contrast dye is injected through the catheter.

After Your Cardiac Catheterization

  • You will need to remain lying down for 2–12 hours.
  • If the insertion site was in your groin, you may be required to lie down with your leg still for several hours.
  • A nurse will check your blood pressure and the insertion site.
  • You may be asked to drink fluid to help flush the contrast dye out of your system.
  • An adult family member or friend will need to drive you home from the hospital.
  • It’s normal to find a small bruise or lump at the insertion site. These common side effects should disappear within a few weeks.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Bleeding, swelling or notice a lump at the insertion site
  • Sharp or increasing pain at the insertion site
  • You become lightheaded or dizzy
  • Leg pain, numbness, or a cold leg or foot
  • Severe headache, visual problems or trouble speaking
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