Our Cardiology ProgramCardiac Catheterization Lab FAQs

Cardiac Catheterization Lab FAQs

What is a cardiac catheterization?

A cardiac catheterization (or cardiac cath) is a procedure that examines how well your heart is functioning. To do so, a catheter, which is a thin hollow tube, is inserted into a large blood vessel (artery) that leads to your heart. This can be done through an artery in your groin area or your wrist. Your heart and artery anatomy can be assessed, using a small amount of “dye,” during the procedure. Depending on the cardiac cath findings, patients can be discharged home the same day.

What is the purpose?

The purpose of a cardiac cath is to find out if your heart is healthy, or if you have damage. For instance, a cardiac cath looks for disease of the heart muscle, valves or coronary (heart) arteries. If problems are identified during your cardiac cath, this allows for procedures to be done to open blocked arteries.

What is a coronary angiography?

During your visit to the cardiac catheterization lab, a coronary angiography is done by injecting a contrast dye through the catheter. The dye is visible in X-ray images, and can be seen flowing through the heart's arteries. The goal is to determine if any arteries are blocked, and if so, which ones.

What are the risks?

While cardiac catheterization is considered very safe, some patients experience minor reactions from the procedures. For instance, some patients develop bruises at the puncture site or the contrast dye used during the coronary angiography may cause an adverse or allergic reaction. Your physician will discuss more of the possible adverse reactions that may occur during your visit.

How can I prepare for the cardiac cath lab?

Before you go to the cardiac cath lab, your doctor will provide you with a list of specific instructions. However, there are some general things to consider before you undergo a cardiac cath.

What happens during cardiac catheterization?

The specific procedures conducted during your visit to the cardiac catheterization lab may vary depending on your needs. For instance, your doctor may do some of the following:

  • Perform a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which can open narrowed or blocked segments of a coronary artery.
  • Assess the pressure in each of the four chambers of your heart.
  • Take samples of blood to measure your heart’s oxygen content.
  • Determine how effectively the pumping chambers of your heart contract.
  • Search for defects in the valves or chambers of your heart.
  • Conduct a biopsy of the heart muscle.

What can I expect after cardiac catheterization?

After your cardiac catheterization, you will be taken to a recovery room to lie flat. You may be instructed not to drive following your procedure, so it's important that you arrange to have someone drive you home. In addition, you wll be given aftercare instructions, including when to call the doctor if you have further questions or concerns.