Learning About Cardioversion
Cardiac Catheterization: About This Test
What is it?
Cardiac catheterization is a test your doctor uses to view images of the heart and the coronary arteries. These arteries feed blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your heart. If your coronary arteries are narrowed, you may be having chest pain, shortness of breath, and other signs of coronary artery disease. Narrowed arteries also increase the risk of a heart attack.
How is cardiac catheterization done?
- A thin tube called a catheter is placed into a blood vessel through the skin on your leg or arm. The catheter is threaded through the blood vessel into your heart.
- Then, a dye is injected through the catheter. Your doctor will take X-ray pictures of the dye as it moves through the coronary arteries and the heart. The pictures show where coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. They can also show how well your heart is pumping.
If you have blocked or narrowed coronary arteries, your doctor may decide to treat you at this time with a procedure called angioplasty. This procedure is often done instead of open-heart surgery. Your doctor will thread a catheter into the narrowed part of the coronary arteries. The catheter has a small balloon at its tip. The balloon is then inflated to push open the narrowed areas. Usually at the same time, the balloon places a device called a stent to hold the narrowed portion open. A stent is a mesh tube that supports the walls of the artery. This increases blood flow through the artery and to the heart muscle.
What should you expect?
- Usually, you should not eat or drink anything (including water) after midnight before the test. Follow your doctor's instructions.
- Follow your doctor's instructions on which of your usual medicines to take. Take them with a sip of water only.
- Before the test, you will receive medicine to help you relax. You will lie on the X-ray table. You may be asked to exhale, cough, hold your breath, or do other simple requests during the test. The test itself normally takes 1 to 2 hours.
- You will receive a shot to numb the skin where the catheter will be inserted. You may have a feeling of pressure when the doctor moves the catheter through your blood vessel. It is usually not painful.
- You may feel hot or flushed for several seconds when the dye is injected.
- After the procedure, you must stay in bed for several hours with your arm or leg straight. You may or may not need to stay in the hospital overnight. You will be given further instructions for what to do when you return home.
What are the risks of cardiac catheterization?
While the risks of cardiac catheterization are very small, you may want to consider them. They include:
- Heart attack, stroke, and other serious problems, which are very rare.
- Allergic reactions to the dye used. These reactions can usually be controlled with medicine.
- Bleeding from the spot where the catheter was inserted.
When should you call for help?
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You would like more information about cardiac catheterization.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.