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Heart Disease and Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization (also called cardiac cath or coronary angiogram) is an invasive imaging procedure that tests for heart disease by allowing your doctor to "see" the inside of the arteries and how well your heart is functioning. During the test, a long, narrow tube, called a catheter, is inserted into a blood vessel in your arm or leg and guided to your heart with the aid of a special X-ray machine. Contrast dye is injected through the catheter so that X-ray movies of your valves, coronary arteries, and heart chambers can be created.

Why Do I Need a Cardiac Cath?

Your doctor uses cardiac cath to:

At many hospitals, several interventional, or therapeutic, procedures to open blocked arteries are performed after the diagnostic part of the cardiac cath is complete. Interventional procedures include balloon angioplasty and stent placements. Opening an artery that is blocked and preventing blood flow and oxygen delivery to the heart muscle could be a lifesaving procedure.

What Are the Risks of a Cardiac Cath?

Cardiac cath is generally safe. However, as with any invasive procedure, there are risks. Special precautions are taken to decrease these risks. Your doctor will discuss the risks of the procedure with you.

Risks are rare but can include:

Be sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have before undergoing cardiac cath or other tests for heart disease.

How Should I Prepare for a Cardiac Cath?

Before a cardiac cath, most people will need to have a chest X-ray, blood tests, and electrocardiogram performed within two weeks before having the test.

You can wear whatever you like to the hospital. You will wear a hospital gown during the procedure.

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