Cardiac Catheterization

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Cardiac catheterization is a common procedure used to diagnose and treat a variety of heart conditions.

At Dignity Health, we care about your heart and want optimal outcomes for your mind, body, and spirit. Our compassionate, skilled heart specialists offer exceptional diagnostic tools to check the condition of your heart and blood vessels. Our physicians use the latest technology to ensure that you receive an accurate diagnosis. Determining the exact condition of your heart will guide our renowned team of surgeons in selecting the best course of treatment available for you.

What is Cardiac Catheterization?

Doctors use cardiac catheterization to search for the presence of plaque build-up inside the arteries. The procedure requires the use of a catheter (thin, narrow tube inserted into the body) and X-rays.

Heart specialists use cardiac catheterization to perform many diagnostic tests and some treatments, including: 

  • cardiac angiogram
  • coronary angioplasty
  • coronary CT angiogram
  • electrophysiology study
  • interventional abdominal aortic aneurysm repair

What to Expect During Cardiac Catheterization

You will likely be admitted to the hospital on the day of the procedure.

Here's what to expect. During cardiac catheterization, your doctor will:

  • give you a local anesthetic to prevent pain at the insertion site
  • insert a small tube called a sheath into the opening of a blood vessel in your groin or arm. The function of the sheath is to act as a guide for the catheter.
  • insert a long, thin tube called a catheter into the artery, and guides it toward your heart
  • insert a new catheter or move the catheter or X-ray machine to perform different tests or check other parts of your heart
  • insert a contrast dye is injected through the catheter to make X-ray images clearer for certain tests

After the test, you may need to:

  • remain lying flat with your face up for 2 to 12 hours
  • lie down with your leg still for several hours if the insertion site was in your groin
  • let a nurse check your blood pressure and the insertion site
  • drink fluid to help flush the contrast liquid out of your system
  • have someone drive you home from the hospital
You should note that it is normal to find a small bruise or lump at the insertion site. It should disappear within a few weeks.

Preparing for Cardiac Catheterization

Before coming in for a cardiac catheterization, arrange for a family member or friend to drive you back home. Also, be sure that you: 

  • tell your doctor what medicines you take and about any allergies you have
  • do not eat or drink anything after the midnight preceding the procedure

Learn More

For more information, please view our Cardiac Surgery page, or call us to Find a Doctor.