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Heart Disease Health Center

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Cardiac Catheterization

How It Is Done continued...

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

During an angiogram, a small amount of dye (contrast material) will be injected through the catheter into 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 you may be asked to take a deep breath and hold it.

Be sure to lie as still as you can, since moving can make the images blurry or hard to read. A health professional will help you stay comfortable and still. Be careful not to touch the sheets or the area where the catheter is inserted. If you do, you may contaminate the clean areas and increase the risk of infection.

You may be given nitroglycerin. This helps open up your coronary arteries. Or you may get a shot of a medicine that causes the coronary arteries to narrow. You may be asked to breathe into a special mouthpiece. This helps to measure the flow of oxygen in your blood.

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. How long the test takes is not a sign of how serious your condition is.

After the test

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

After the test, you will be taken to an observation room. A health professional will periodically monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. You will also be checked for signs of bleeding at the insertion site. The pulse, color, and temperature of the arm or leg in which the catheter was put in will also be checked periodically. You may be given medicine for pain.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 26, 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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