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Diagnostic cardiac catheterization is the process of introducing hollow plastic tubes called catheters into veins and/or arteries to the heart. Once the catheters are inside the heart chambers or blood vessels, the pressure of the blood can be measured, blood samples can be taken, and dye can be injected to help visualize the structures.
Cardiac catheterization is helpful for diagnosing patients with heart conditions, such as if arteries that supply the heart muscle (coronary artery disease) are blocked.
If a heart condition is suspected from a patient's history, physical examination, or an evaluation by tests like an EKG, chest x-ray, echocardiogram, and exercise stress test, diagnostic cardiac catheterization can be used to confirm a diagnosis. It can also confirm a suspected abnormality in the patient that might require a surgeon’s attention.
Conditions that a diagnostic cardiac catheterization can diagnose include:
Cardiac catheterization is usually performed in the hospital. The test requires some preparations. Before your test:
Cardiac catheterization is usually performed while you're awake but sedated. However, specific procedures, such as ablation, valve repair, or valve replacement, may be performed while you're asleep.
An IV line will be inserted in your hand or arm and will be used to give you any additional medications you might need during your procedure. You will also have monitors (electrodes) placed on your chest to check your heartbeat during the test.
Before the catheter is inserted into your artery, you'll be given a shot of an anesthetic to numb the area. You may feel a quick, stinging pain before the numbness sets in.
After you feel numb, the catheter will be inserted. A small cut is made to access an artery. A plastic sheath will be inserted in the cut to allow your doctor to insert the catheter.
What happens next depends on why you're having a cardiac catheterization. These are some of the common uses:
If you're awake during the procedure, you may be asked to take deep breaths, hold your breath, cough or place your arms in various positions throughout the procedure. Your table may be tilted at times, but you'll have a safety strap on to keep you on the table.
Threading the catheter shouldn't be painful, and you won't feel it moving through your body. Tell your health care team if you have any discomfort.
Presbyterian’s Heart and Vascular team has many different options to help you manage your heart condition. The team performs various diagnostic tests and procedures to help form an accurate diagnosis and create individualized treatment plans for your heart health needs. Depending on the type of heart condition you have and its underlying cause, the team can recommend a wide variety of treatment options; these may include lifestyle modifications, medications and procedures. Our cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons work closely together for cases in which surgery is the best treatment option. We also offer a customized cardiac rehabilitation program at our Healthplex, where clinically appropriate, which can improve your endurance and exercise tolerance, as well as improve heart-related symptoms. Your cardiologist will work with the rehabilitation team to create a plan that will be tailored to your individual health needs.