Below is educational information for patients who are having a cardiac catheterization.

What is a cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure to look at your heart and its blood vessels. Health care providers can measure oxygen levels and pressures in your heart. They can take X-rays using contrast dye. They can also fix problems with your valves, blood vessels, or the walls of your heart.

Why would a patient need this procedure?

You may need this procedure if you have:

  • Chest Pain
  • Blocked/Narrow arteries (heart disease) – Atherosclerosis: a disease in which plaque (fat or cholesterol) builds up inside your arteries and over time will make your arteries harder and narrow, decreasing the blood flow

How do I prepare for a cardiac catheterization?

NPO (nothing to eat or drink) for at least 6–8 hours prior to your procedure.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you are allergic to anything, especially iodine, shellfish, latex or rubber products, medications like penicillin, or X-ray dye.

During the procedure:

You will be given medicine (sedative) to help you relax, but you’ll be awake and able to follow instructions during the procedure. The nurse will clean and shave the area where the doctor will be working, usually in your groin (leg) or wrist. A local anesthetic is usually given to numb the needle puncture site. A catheter (long thin tube) is inserted into your artery. The catheter is then threaded through your blood vessels to your heart. You may feel some pressure at the injection site, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. The doctor will inject contrast dye in order to see a clear picture of your blood vessels.

After the procedure:

Pressure will be applied to the procedure site. You will need to lie flat with your leg or arm straight for 2 to 4 hours. Do not get out of bed until your health care provider says it is okay. Arm or leg movements can cause serious bleeding. You will have your vital signs taken frequently (about every hour) for the first 4–6 hours after your procedure.

Cardiac catheterization sites:

A traditional cardiac catheterization is performed through the groin, and a radial artery catheterization is performed through the wrist.

Report any swelling, pain or bleeding at the puncture site, and if you have chest pain.

If you had a radial artery (wrist) catheterization, you should not use that arm to lift anything more than 1 lb. for 24 hours.

Download the Cardiac Catheterization brochure.