Having Cardiac Catheterization

You may have had chest pain (angina), dizziness, or other symptoms of heart trouble. To help diagnose your problem, your healthcare provider may advise a cardiac catheterization. This is a procedure that looks for a blockage or narrow area in the arteries around the heart. These can cause chest pain or a heart attack if not treated.

This common procedure may also be used to treat a heart problem. It may be done as a planned procedure if you have had chest pain in the past. Or it may be done right away to treat a suspected heart attack.

Front view of male torso showing catheter inserted in upper thigh and ending in heart.

Before the procedure

  • Tell your healthcare team what medicines you take and about any allergies you have.

  • Follow any directions you are given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

During the procedure

  • Hair may be trimmed where the catheter will be inserted.

  • You may be given medicine to relax before the procedure.

  • You will receive a local anesthetic to prevent pain at the insertion site.

  • A healthcare provider inserts a tube called a sheath into a blood vessel in your groin or arm.

  • Through the sheath, a long, thin tube called a catheter is placed inside the artery. The catheter is then guided toward your heart under X-ray guidance.

  • The catheter can then be used to measure pressures within the heart. It can take blood samples if needed. It can also be used to inject contrast into the heart arteries to look for blockages. This is called angiography.

After the procedure

  • Your healthcare providers will tell you how long to lie down and keep the insertion site still.

  • If the insertion site was in your groin, you may need to lie down with your leg still for 6 or more hours. If a suture or closure device such as a collagen plug is used on the artery site to close the site, you may be able to move sooner. This depends on any bleeding that occurs.

  • A nurse will check the insertion site and your blood pressure.

  • You may be asked to drink fluid to help flush the contrast liquid out of your system.

  • Have someone drive you home from the hospital.

  • It’s normal to find a small bruise or lump at the insertion site. This should go away within a few weeks.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain (angina)

  • Pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or fluid leaking at the insertion site

  • Severe pain, coldness, or a bluish color in the leg or arm that held the catheter

  • Blood in your urine, black or sticky stools, or any other kind of bleeding

  • Fever of 100.4°F ( 38.0°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider