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Cardiac Catheterization

How It Is Done

This test is performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory camera.gif ("cath lab") by a cardiologist.

Before the test

You will be asked to lie on a flat table under a large X-ray machine. Several small metal leads (electrodes) will be attached to your legs and arms with a special paste or gel. These leads are connected to an electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) machine that continuously records the electrical activity of your heart during the test.

A device called a pulse oximeter that measures oxygen levels in your blood and monitors your pulse may be clipped to your finger.

An intravenous (IV) needle will be inserted into a vein in one of your arms to give you fluids or medicine during the procedure. Through the IV line you will receive a medicine to help you relax (sedative). You may be awake during the procedure. But even if you are awake, the sedative may make you so sleepy that you may not remember much about the procedure.

During the test

The catheter insertion area will be shaved and cleansed with an antiseptic solution before the test. Sterile towels will be draped over you, except for the area over the catheter insertion site. There are a few options for where the catheter is inserted. If you are having a cardiac catheterization to check the right side of your heart, the catheter is inserted into a vein in your neck or groin. If the test will check the left side of your heart or your coronary arteries, the catheter is inserted into an artery in your groin or arm.

A local anesthetic will be injected into the skin at the insertion site. A blood vessel is punctured by a special needle or exposed by making a small cut in the skin so that the catheter can be passed into the blood vessel camera.gif. The catheter is slowly advanced through the blood vessel into your body. The catheter tip is moved into various positions in the heart's vessels and chambers while the doctor watches its progress on the imaging screen. Pressures within the heart chambers can be measured. Blood and heart tissue samples may also be removed through the catheter, if necessary.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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