Having Cardiac Catheterization

You may have had chest pain (angina), dizziness, or other symptoms of heart trouble. To help diagnose your problem, your healthcare provider may advise a cardiac catheterization. This is a procedure that looks for a blockage or narrow area in the arteries around the heart. These can cause chest pain or a heart attack if not treated.

This common procedure may also be used to treat a heart problem. It may be done as a planned procedure if you have had chest pain in the past. Or it may be done right away to treat a suspected heart attack.

Front view of male torso showing catheter inserted in upper thigh and ending in heart.

Before the procedure

  • Tell your healthcare team what medicines you take and about any allergies you have.

  • Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the procedure, or as instructed by your healthcare team.

During the procedure

  • Hair may be trimmed where the catheter will be inserted.

  • You may be given medicine to relax before the procedure.

  • You will receive a local anesthetic to prevent pain at the insertion site.

  • A healthcare provider inserts a tube called a sheath into a blood vessel in your groin or arm.

  • Through the sheath, a long, thin tube called a catheter is placed inside the artery. The catheter is then guided toward your heart.

  • To do different tests or check other parts of the heart, the healthcare provider inserts a new catheter or moves the catheter or X-ray machine. For some tests, a contrast dye is injected through the catheter.

After the procedure

  • Your healthcare providers will tell you how long to lie down and keep the insertion site still.

  • If the insertion site was in your groin, you may need to lie down with your leg still for 2 or more hours. If a suture or closure device such as a collagen plug is used on the artery site to close the site, you may be able to move sooner. This depends on any bleeding that occurs.

  • A nurse will check the insertion site and your blood pressure.

  • You may be asked to drink fluid to help flush the contrast liquid out of your system.

  • Have someone drive you home from the hospital.

  • It’s normal to find a small bruise or lump at the insertion site. This should go away within a few weeks.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain (angina)

  • Pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or fluid leaking at the insertion site

  • Severe pain, coldness, or a bluish color in the leg or arm that held the catheter

  • Blood in your urine, black or sticky stools, or any other kind of bleeding

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider