What is Cardiac Catheterization?
A Cardiac Catheterization is a procedure to examine your heart. The arteries that carry oxygen to the heart are examined and blocked arteries can be identified. Arteries are strong blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the body. The aorta is the largest artery in the body and the blood it carries is rich with oxygen.
This video will help you to understand this procedure. Let’s begin by reviewing information about your body.
Your heart is in the middle of your chest under your ribs.
It is the muscle that pumps blood to the rest of your body. Blood flows through tubes called blood vessels.
Arteries are strong blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the body. The aorta is the largest artery in the body and the blood it carries is rich with oxygen.
Veins are a different type of blood vessel that carry blood back to the heart. The vena cava is the largest vein in the body. It carries oxygen-poor blood back to the heart.
During a cardiac cath, your cardiologist can test how well your heart muscle is working.
The arteries that carry oxygen to the heart are examined and blocked arteries can be identified.
The inside of the heart, the walls and important flaps called valves are checked for problems.
To do a cardiac cath, a cardiologist places a thin tube called a catheter through an artery in your leg or arm to reach your heart.
The Femoral artery in the leg is most commonly used. The catheter is inserted into the artery in the groin then guided to reach the heart.
The radial artery in the arm is another site that a catheter can be placed. The catheter is inserted at the wrist then guided to reach the heart.
Which artery is selected for the procedure depends on your personal situation and the experience and training of your Cardiologist.
A contrast dye that can be seen with an x-ray machine is given. X-ray pictures and video of the dye show the cardiologist how blood is moving through your heart.
For your cardiac catheterization procedure you will be positioned carefully on an x-ray table.
The skin over an artery of your leg or arm is cleaned, then numbed with local anesthetic.
You will feel a sting and burn that lasts only a few seconds.
A tiny cut is made over the artery, and a guide for the catheter is placed. You may feel pressure but you should not feel pain.
Next the long catheter is threaded through the guide in your artery, up to your heart.
Dye is given through the catheter and the X-ray camera is used to see it flow through the heart.
The arteries that feed oxygen to your heart, the inside walls and the shape of your heart are examined.
After all the necessary pictures have been taken. The catheter is carefully removed from the artery.
Gentle pressure, a stitch, a patch or a plug is used to prevent bleeding from the artery.
The incision is covered with a dressing.
After the procedure “speak-up” and tell your care team if you have more than expected pain or problems.
This is a common, minimally invasive procedure. Serious problems can happen but rarely. There is a risk of having a reaction to the dye, bleeding, damage to an artery or the heart, stroke, heart attack, and even death.
That is why you are monitored closely during and after the procedure. You can help by telling the staff about any problems you are having.
If your leg artery was used for the catheter, you must lie flat for up to 6 hours after the procedure to prevent bleeding from the site.
How long you must lie flat depends on how the artery was sealed. If the artery is patched or plugged you may be able to move sooner.
The next steps for your care will depend on what was found during the procedure and your general health.
At the catheter site mild soreness and bruising is normal. Rarely bleeding or infection can happen. Help prevent problems by following your doctor’s instructions carefully.
The first week after the procedure rest as needed. Do not exercise or lift anything more than 10 pounds.
Wear loose clothes and do not swim or soak in a tub.
Keep your incision clean. Remove the dressing as listed in your instructions. Wash gently and pat dry every day. And do not rub the incision.
You may be asked to drink extra water and/or other liquids to help your kidneys flush the contrast dye from your body. What to drink and how much to drink will be different for you if you have diabetes, heart failure, or kidney disease.
Call your doctor if you have a fever, swelling or redness at your incision site, worsening pain, or any bleeding that doesn’t stop.
Hospital admission, medication or surgery may be needed to fix some problems.
You will be scheduled for a follow-up appointment to discuss your results and to have your incision site examined.
To avoid cancellation or complications from anesthesia or your procedure, your Job as the Patient is to not eat, drink or chew gum after midnight, the night before the procedure unless you are given different instructions take medications you were told to on the morning of the procedure with a sip of water follow instructions about aspirin and blood thinners before surgery, you may be asked to stop taking them or continue taking depending on your situation, and arrive on time
You should be ready to verify or confirm your list of medical problems and surgeries, all of your medications, including vitamins and supplements, your current smoking, alcohol, and drug use and all allergies, especially to medications, latex and tape.
Before you have this procedure it is your job to speak up and ask if you still have questions about why it is recommended for you, the risks and alternatives. Also understand the risk of not having the procedure.
This video is intended as a tool to help you to better understand the procedure that you are scheduled to have or are considering. It is not intended to replace any discussion, decision making or advice of your physician.