Cardiac Catherization

A Cardiac Catheterization allows a physician to examine a patient’s heart for pumping function, check for blockage in the arteries bringing blood to the heart, and measure pressures within the heart. Patients are usually given a mild sedative prior to the procedure. This will help you feel more relaxed and maybe a bit sleepy.

This test is done in a room with special cameras to take x-ray pictures of your heart. Most cardiac catheterizations are done through a large artery in the groin, However Dr. De is known for being one of the few who prefer the radial approach, done through the wrist. The nurse or technician will cleanse and shave the area and cover you with sterile drapes. The doctor will then numb the area and insert a small hollow tube or sheath into the artery in your groin (or arm). The physician can then thread special catheters (long, thin plastic tubes) up to the heart.

Through these specially shaped catheters, the physician can inject x-ray contrast dye and take x-ray pictures of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle and the main pumping chamber of the heart. Some people may notice a mild discomfort or “hot flash” following the dye injection which will last only a few seconds.

During the catheterization, the physician can view the x-ray images on special TV screens. The entire procedure can take as little as 20 minutes or sometimes more than an hour, depending on how many and what type of measurements are taken. After the physician has completed the procedure, the sheaths are removed from the groin (or arm) and a nurse or cath lab technician will hold pressure on the site to allow the small hole in the artery to close. A special dressing, pressure device or sandbag may be placed on the site at this time.

You will be asked to lie flat and still for several hours after the procedure to allow the hole in the artery to seal. Some physicians use a type of vascular closure device to seal the puncture in the artery. You should follow your physician’s specific instructions about activity following the use of one of these devices.

Most patients will go home several hours after the procedure, but because you have been given medication to relax you, please plan to have someone drive you home.