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Cardiac Catheterization

How It Is Done continued...

You may be asked to hold your breath or move your head slightly to provide clear views of the heart and its blood vessels.

A small amount of dye (contrast material) will be injected through the catheter into your heart chamber or one of your coronary arteries. Pictures show the arteries as the dye moves through them. You may be asked to cough to help clear the contrast material out of your heart or breathe deeply and hold your breath.

It is important to lie as still as possible, since motion can make the images blurry or hard to interpret. A health professional will help you stay comfortable and will help you resist the urge to move around. Be careful not to touch the sheets or reach for your groin area because you may contaminate the sterile areas and increase the risk of infection.

Your doctor may allow you to watch the video monitor so you can see the images of your heart and coronary arteries.

You may be given nitroglycerin to help open up your coronary arteries. Or you may be given an injection of a medicine that causes the coronary arteries to narrow. You may be asked to breathe into a special mouthpiece to help measure the flow of oxygen in your circulating blood.

After the test

The catheter will be removed from the insertion site. To prevent bleeding, the site may need to be closed using pressure, stitches, or a special seal. For example, if the catheter was inserted in your wrist or groin, firm pressure will be applied to the area for about 10 minutes to stop the bleeding. Then a pressure dressing will be placed over the area. If the catheter was inserted in your elbow, a few stitches will be used to close the wound.

The test takes about 30 minutes. But you need time to get ready for it and time to recover. It can take up to 6 hours total. The length of the test is not an indication of the seriousness of your condition. After the test, you will be taken to an observation room and a health professional will periodically monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature and check for signs of bleeding at the insertion site. The pulse, color, and temperature of the arm or leg in which the catheter was inserted will also be checked periodically.

If the catheter was inserted in your leg, you may have to lie in bed with your leg extended for several hours (such as 4 to 12 hours), depending on the exact procedure used and your medical condition. After that, you can move about freely, but you should avoid strenuous activity for at least 1 to 2 days. A child who has had cardiac catheterization may need to be held by a parent for several hours after the test to prevent the child from moving his or her leg.

You should drink plenty of liquids for several hours after the test. This will prevent dehydration and help flush the contrast material out of your body.

Depending on the results of the test, you may be sent home either after a short observation period (such as 6 hours) or on the next day. If any stitches were placed in your arm, they may be removed in 5 to 7 days.

If you are breast-feeding, use formula for 1 to 2 days after the test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 20, 2011
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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