What is Cardiac Catheterization?
Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose and determine the best treatment for patients with various forms of heart disease. A catheterization
lab has specialized equipment that allows instant moving images of the heart. During the procedure, the patient is mildly sedated. A very thin plastic tube
(catheter) is guided through a leg or arm vein and up to the heart. Once the catheter is in place, the physician injects a dye to track blood flow while
cameras move around the chest area. The physician takes pictures of the arteries and the main pumping chamber to thoroughly map blood flow through the heart.
After the diagnostic catheterization test is complete, the cardiologist reviews the images to determine if there is a narrowing or blockage of vessels
requiring further treatment. The cardiologist then discusses the findings with the patient and presents further treatment options, if necessary. No treatment
may be necessary, the patient may need a change in medication, or a therapeutic interventional procedure or surgery may be required.
How to Prepare for Cardiac Catheterization
The following are general guidelines for how to prepare for a cardiac catheterization. Please check with your physician or contact the Cardiovascular Center
to confirm your individualized preparation plan.
- Do not eat or drink anything after midnight (sips of
water with medication are permissible).
- Most medications are safe to take before the
procedure, however check with your physician to confirm especially if you are
taking Coumadin, insulin or oral diabetic medication, or a diuretic.
- You should receive a phone call from a Cath Lab nurse
in the days before the procedure to confirm your appointment, answer any
questions you may have and to provide you with additional instructions if
- Please arrive and check in at the Cardiovascular
Center Reception Area at your designated appointment time. Click here for
- Your personal items will be stored in a locker,
however it is recommended to leave valuables at home.
- Please ensure that you have a reliable ride home, you
will not be able to drive for 24 hours because you will be sedated during the
- Bring a list of the medications that you take and a list of any allergies to medications you may have.
What to Expect During the Procedure
Preparing you for the procedure…
- A registered nurse will greet you when you arrive to
the Cardiovascular Services Center
- You will be checked in and then brought to the
- You will be asked to remove your clothing and change
into a hospital gown. Your belongings will be stored in a safe locker
- You will lie on a stretcher and a nurse will take
your vital signs, insert an intravenous line in your arm, place you on a heart
monitor, and ask you several questions about your medical history.
- The doctor and/or nurse practitioner will also ask
you many questions about your medical history and will explain the risks and
benefits of the procedure and ask you to sign your name to consent for the
- The radiology technician will shave your groin area
- There may be several staff members involved in your
care at one time – we work together as a team to deliver the best care to our
patients. Please feel free to ask questions at anytime.
In the Cath
- Nurses will take you into the cath lab when your
preparation is complete.
- Once inside the cath lab you will notice several
different staff members in the room – these may include 1-2 registered nurses,
1-2 radiology technicians, and the cardiologist. You will notice that each
team member is wearing surgical hats, and masks to keep the room sterile and
also lead to protect themselves from repeated x-ray exposure.
- As you enter the cath lab you will notice a narrow,
moveable examination table and several pieces of large equipment including
multiple cameras and monitor screens. These pieces are used to take the images
of your heart.
- You will also notice a large window looking into our
control room where we monitor the procedure on our computers. You will hear
the nurses, technicians and physicians communicating back and forth to each
other between the lab and the control room via an overhead microphone/audio
- The nurses will assist you to move onto the narrow
table where you will lay on your back for the duration of the procedure.
- The team will then connect you to the heart monitor,
a vital sign monitor, intravenous fluids and oxygen via nasal cannula.
- The insertion site (generally groin area) will be
shaved and prepped with an antiseptic wash and you will be draped with a
sterile drape. It is important to remain still during the procedure and to
keep your arms by your sides at all times.
- You will be given medication through your intravenous
line that will help to relax you and control your pain. You will be sedated
but awake for the entire procedure. You should feel relaxed, pain-free and
drowsy but you should be able to answer questions and follow commands if
necessary. If you begin to feel anxious or pain you will be given additional
medication to make you comfortable.
- The procedure time varies depending on several
different factors, the nurses and doctor will constantly monitor how you are
feeling during the procedure.
- Once you have been medicated the cardiologist will
apply a local anesthetic at the insertion site to numb the area, make a small
inscision the groin area and insert a catheter up through a vein or artery and
into your heart. You may feel some mild pressure or discomfort as the catheter
is being inserted.
- The lights may be dimmed in the room to make it
easier to view the images of your heart on the monitor screens. It is very
important to stay still during the procedure so that the images and data can
be collected accurately.
- The catheter will be moved to different areas of your
heart and dye will be injected via the catheter to measure the pressure in the
different chambers of the heart and the blood flow to the heart muscle. It is
normal to feel a warm sensation when the dye is injected – this sensation
should pass quickly.
- The cameras will move in different directions to take
images of your heart at different angles.
After the Test
- You will be brought back to the Prep/Recovery area
and will be asked to lay flat on your back for at least 2 hours after the
procedure. The reason for this is to prevent any bleeding complications at the
- A nurse will again connect you to the heart monitor
and monitor your vital signs frequently. Your pain will be controlled with
medication if necessary.
- You may eat and drink shortly after the procedure
although you may have to do so laying flat.
- At the appropriate time the nurse will slowly assist
you to sit up and eventually walk around the prep/recovery area.
- You will be discharged when the physician and nurse
feel that you have recovered sufficiently. The nurse will review your Cardiac
Catheterization Discharge Instructions with you and will be available to
answer any questions you may have.
- The physician will discuss the findings with you and
present options for further treatment if necessary which may or may not
include: no treatment, changing your medication, another cardiac
interventional procedure or cardiac surgery.
- At the end of the procedure the catheter will be removed. The physician may use a vascular closure device to prevent bleeding or may hold firm manual
pressure at the insertion site for several minutes.