Cardiac Catheter Procedure - An Overview

Cardiac Catheter Procedure - An Overview
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The cardiac catheter procedure, more commonly known as cardiac catheterization, is performed to treat and diagnose certain heart conditions. It involves the use of a catheter and sometimes a contrast dye, depending on what the doctor plans to do during the procedure. During the procedure, the doctor may also do other things, such as obtain samples of heart muscle and blood, or perform minor surgery. This procedure is generally performed in a hospital by a cardiologist.

Why the Test is Performed

This procedure is performed to obtain information about the blood vessels of the heart or to treat certain conditions. It may be done to diagnose or evaluate congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease or heart valve problems. It may be done to determine the cause of cardiomyopathy or heart failure. It may be done as a treatment to repair certain heart defects, open blocked grafts or arteries in the heart or to repair a stenotic heart valve.


For six to eight hours prior to a cardiac catheter procedure, patients should not eat or drink. In some cases, patients will have to stay the night, so they should prepare for this, as well as a ride home. Patients may have to stop certain medications, such as blood-thinners, prior to this procedure. The doctor will give the patient detailed preparation instructions and they should be followed exactly.


Patients are awake during this procedure. They are given a mild sedative and will be numbed for the catheter. The catheter is inserted into a

blood vessel through an IV. Using fluoroscopy, it is carefully threaded into the heart. Once it is in place, the doctor may do a variety of things, such as :

  • Measure blood flow and pressure in the heart’s large arteries and chambers
  • Examine the heart’s arteries
  • Collect blood samples
  • Measure oxygen from different heart areas
  • Perform a biopsy of heart muscle

The test generally takes about 30 to 60 minutes. Some patients report pressure at the catheter site and some discomfort.

After the procedure, the patient will likely have to stay still after the catheter is removed. Firm pressure is usually applied to the insertion site to prevent bleeding. After a few hours, the patient is usually able to start moving around.


This procedure is generally effective in identifying heart disease or defects, such as valve problems, heart enlargement, coronary artery disease and ventricular aneurysms.

It may be performed for primary pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary embolism, cardiac amyloidosis, heart valve defects (such as mitral valve regurgitation, pulmonary valve stenosis, aortic stenosis and others) and birth defects (such as transposition of the great vessels, coarctation of the aorta, Tetralogy of Fallot, ventricular septal defect and others).

Possible Risks

The cardiac catheter procedure is generally safe. There are some risks, however. In general, the risks include cardiac arrhythmic, heart attack, low blood pressure, stroke, cardiac tamponade, bleeding, reaction to contrast dye and hematoma-related arterial trauma. General catheterization complications may include infection, IV site pain, bleeding, blood clots, kidney damage due to contrast dye and blood vessel damage.


Cleveland Clinic. (2010). Cardiac Catheterization. Retrieved on April 18, 2011 from the Cleveland Clinic:

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2009). What is Cardiac Catheterization? Retrieved on April 18, 2011 from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute:

Image Credits

IV Drip: - adamci