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Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a common and relatively painless, nonsurgical procedure that can help your doctor diagnose a heart problem.

The procedure is performed by your doctor inserting a long flexible tube into a large blood vessel in your leg or arm. A catheter or flexible tube is guided towards your heart and inside your heart with the aid of x-ray. Pictures of the blood vessels in the surface of your heart will be taken to diagnose any blockage. Pressures may be monitored in your heart to assess any elevated blood pressure in your lungs. Pressure monitoring may also diagnose any problems you may have with your heart valves.

Finally, blood measurements can be measured inside your heart to decide whether there are any holes in your heart that may have been present from birth and causing symptoms that your doctor is evaluating.

The heart cath takes approximately 20-30 minutes to perform. Following the procedure the plastic tube is removed and you are asked to lie in bed for 4-6 hours with the involved leg being straight. After the bed rest is completed, you will ambulate for 30-60 minutes to ensure that you do not have any bleeding problems and then if you had been admitted as an out-patient, you will be allowed to go home.

We ask that you do not resume normal activities until 24 hours after the procedure. A cardiac catheterization is a very safe procedure, but like any invasive procedure it does have some fixed risks.

Our practice performs close to 2,500 heart caths every year. The major risks from the procedure are heart attack, stroke, and even death. These complications occur in 1 in every 10,000 patients. More common complications, but much less threatening, are problems with bleeding, bruising at the site of catheter insertion, allergy to the dye used to take the pictures, and irregularities in heart beat.

The procedure will be started by cleansing the area where the tube will be placed. This is either the right or left groin, or right or left elbow area of the arm. After the cleaning is performed, a drape is placed. Prior to insertion of the plastic tube or catheter, local anesthetic is given. After the placement of a local anesthetic, there will be little or no discomfort other than a pushing sensation at the site of insertion of the catheter.

A warm feeling will be felt when the dye is injected inside the heart. This warm feeling lasts approximately 15 seconds. You will be able to see the procedure as it is being performed on monitors above your chest, and following the completion of the test your doctor will review all of your pictures and give you copies of these pictures to take home to your family.

Eight of the twelve physicians in Medical Center Cardiologists, P.S.C. perform cardiac catheterization. If you need further information regarding this procedure, we would be happy to provide you with a brochure.