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Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care Providers

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Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose and treat heart diseases. Cardiologists (doctors who specialize in the heart and vascular system) do this procedure to:

  • Check how well your heart pumps blood.

  • Look for problems with the valves of your heart.

  • Take a sample of tissue from your heart (biopsy).

  • Measure the oxygen level and blood pressure in your heart.

  • Find out if you have a blockage or narrowing of blood vessels.

The procedure also can help cardiologists do other things like:

  • Treat irregular heart rhythms.

  • Repair or replace a diseased heart valve.

  • Place a stent to make sure a blood vessel stays open.

  • Widen a narrow area of a blood vessel (angioplasty).

  • Fix congenital problems (defects people are born with).

Cardiac catheterization is usually very safe. A small number of people have minor problems. Some develop bruises where the catheter was inserted. The contrast dye used to make the arteries show up on X-rays makes some people sick to their stomachs, get itchy, or develop hives.

Why choose Presbyterian for your cardiac catheterization?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care’s catheterization lab offers many different options for your cardiac catheterization. Our team can perform more traditional catheterizations, or you may be able to have a newer, less-invasive procedure. One of the new options is the hybrid lab. A wide variety of cardiac procedures can be performed in the hybrid lab, allowing shorter hospital stays and faster recovery time.

Who is eligible for a cardiac catheterization?

Doctors use cardiac catheterization to diagnose and evaluate common symptoms like:

  • Chest pain.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • An enlarged heart.

  • Blood clots in the lungs.

  • Birth defects of the heart.

  • High blood pressure in the lungs.

What conditions can be treated with a cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is also used to check the progress on specific conditions and develop a treatment plan for you.

Specific conditions include:

  • Disease of the aorta.

  • Heart valve disease.

  • Coronary artery disease.

  • Atherosclerosis.

  • Heart failure with coronary artery disease.

  • Angina that's not well controlled with medication.

Cardiac catheterization is also used to treat heart disease in these ways:

  • Repairing or replacing heart valves.

  • Closing holes in the heart and fixing other defects.

  • Closing off part of your heart to prevent blood clots.

  • Opening narrow heart valves (balloon valvuloplasty).

  • Treating irregular heart rhythms by scarring or destroying heart tissue, so the electrical signals go back to normal (ablation).

  • Widening a narrowed artery (angioplasty) with or without stenting.

How do I prepare for a cardiac catheterization?

  • You will be given instructions about what to eat and drink during the 24 hours before the test. You may be asked not to eat or drink for six to eight hours before the procedure.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if you are allergic to anything, especially iodine, shellfish, latex or rubber products, medicines like penicillin, or X-ray dye.
  • Tell your doctor about any medications that you are taking. It's possible that your doctor will want you to stop taking them for some period of time before the procedure.
  • If you usually wear a hearing aid, it's best to wear it during the procedure. If you wear glasses, bring them.
  • Plan to have someone drive you home after your procedure.

What should I expect during my cardiac catheterization?

This procedure lasts about an hour. It usually does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. Here are the steps:

  • A nurse will give you a sedative, but you’ll be awake during the procedure.

  • You'll be given a local anesthetic to numb the puncture site.

  • The doctor will puncture through your skin and into a large blood vessel with a needle. A small tube (sheath) will be inserted and the catheter threaded through to the heart. A video screen will show the catheter.

  • The catheter might be used to:

    • Clear an artery (angioplasty or a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)).
    • Inject a dye that can be seen on X-rays (angiography).
    • Measure blood pressure.
    • Remove a tissue sample (biopsy) from the heart.
    • Take blood samples.
    • View the inside of blood vessels.
    • Widen a narrowed heart valve (valvuloplasty).

  • The doctor will remove the catheters and the sheath.

  • After the procedure, you will go to a recovery room and lie in bed for a few hours. You will keep your leg straight. Pressure will be applied to the puncture site to stop the bleeding.

  • Your heartbeat and other vital signs will be checked.

  • A small bruise at the puncture site is normal. If the site starts to bleed, lie flat and press firmly on top of it for a few minutes. Then, recheck to see if the bleeding has stopped.

  • Most people can return to their normal activities the day after the procedure.

How do I care for myself after my cardiac catheterization?

Don't forget to make follow up appointments. Take your medications as directed by your doctor.

Call your doctor if:

  • The puncture site swells, or fluids drain from it.

  • The area around the puncture site looks more bruised.

  • Your leg with the puncture becomes numb or tingles, or your foot feels cold or turns blue.

Call 911 if:

  • The puncture site swells up very fast.

  • Bleeding from the puncture site does not slow down when you press on it firmly.

Doctor holding patient's hand in hospital.

Presbyterian Heart & Vascular Care Providers

Our team of highly skilled doctors and clinicians offers a full range of heart-related services from diagnosis and treatment to monitoring.

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