What Other Terms Are Used To Describe Cardiac Catheterization?

  • Heart Cath
  • Angiogram

What Is Cardiac Catheterization?

  • This procedure is nonsurgical and is performed under X-ray guidance in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab.
  • A catheter (a long, thin, flexible tube) is inserted through an artery (blood vessel) in the thigh up into the heart. Occasionally an artery in the arm is used.
  • X-rays (pictures) are taken of the heart and coronary arteries.
  • The patient is given a mild sedative to help him relax but remains awake during the procedure to allow him to answer questions regarding his comfort level, any chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • A small area of the groin or arm is shaved and cleansed where the catheter will be inserted.
  • Medication will be used to anesthetize (numb) this area so a small incision can be made where the catheter will be inserted.
  • The catheter is inserted through the femoral artery in the groin (or an artery in the arm at the crease of the elbow). X-ray is used to guide the catheter up into the heart.
  • A colorless dye is injected through the catheter, and X-ray pictures are taken of the heart and coronary arteries.
  • The patient can watch the procedure on the monitor if he wants to.
  • The test takes about an hour.

Why Is A Cardiac Catheterization Done?

  • This test will help the doctor to evaluate the patient's cardiac condition related to:
    • How well the heart muscle and valves are working
    • The extent of damage to the heart after a heart attack
    • Which coronary arteries are narrowed
    • The extent and degree of the narrowing
    • What treatment is required: medical management, an angioplasty (PTCA) or surgery

What Symptoms May Be Experienced During The Procedure?

  • Slight burning or stinging from the medicine used to numb the catheter insertion site.
  • Slight discomfort or pressure as the catheter is being inserted.
  • Slight nausea, extra heartbeats, and/or a warm flushing throughout the body (10-20 seconds) as the dye is being injected.

What Happens After The Procedure Is Completed?

  • After X-rays are taken, the catheter is removed.
  • A bandaid or pressure dressing will be placed over the area where the catheter was inserted.
  • Firm pressure is applied for 15-30 minutes until the bleeding stops.
  • If an artery in the arm is used, pressure will be applied.
  • The patient will be observed for 6-8 hours before discharged home.
  • The insertion site will be checked frequently for signs of bleeding.
  • Blood pressure and the pulse in the leg (or arm) used will be checked frequently.
  • A knot under the skin where the catheter was inserted may occur. This is only temporary.
  • Bruising to the leg/groin area where the catheter was inserted may occur. The bruising may spread down the leg and is only temporary.
  • Most patients are discharged in 8 hours with minimal activity restrictions.

What Precautions Should be Observed Following The Procedure?

  • Avoid bending the leg at the hip (groin area) for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Hold the bandaid firmly, if need to cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid bending or using the arm for several hours, if it was used for the insertion of the catheter.

What Signs And Symptoms Should Be Reported Immediately?

  • Discomfort or sudden pain at the insertion site.
  • A warm, moist and sticky feeling, or bleeding.
  • Any discomfort in chest, neck, jaw, arms or upper back, shortness of breath, weakness or dizziness.

What Preparation is Needed?

  • Nothing to eat or drink after midnight.
    • It is important for the patient to ask his doctor:
    • How to adjust insulin and food intake prior to the test if he is a diabetic
    • If he should take his regular medications the morning of the test
  • If taking blood thinners (ie. Coumadin), should they be withheld and, if so, how long prior to the procedure
  • Leave all valuables at home.
  • Make arrangements to be driven home.


  • Pre-register 1-3 days prior to the day the test is scheduled. This will save considerable time on the day of test. Please call (310)517-4754 to pre-register.
  • Plan to arrive 2 hours before the scheduled time of the test.
  • Enter the hospital through the main lobby from the visitor parking lot on the east side of the hospital.
  • Check in at the information desk in the main lobby.
  • The patient will be escorted to the Short Stay Department.