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Cardiac Catheterization


Complications related to the catheter include:

  • Pain, swelling, and tenderness at the catheter insertion site.
  • Irritation of the vein by the catheter (superficial thrombophlebitis). This can usually be treated with warm compresses.
  • Bleeding at the catheter site.
  • A bruise where the catheter was inserted. This usually goes away in a few days.
  • Trouble urinating after the procedure.

Serious complications are rare, but they can be life-threatening. Serious complications are more likely to occur in people who are critically ill or elderly. These complications may include:

  • Sudden closure of the coronary artery.
  • Small tear in the inner lining of the artery.
  • Allergic reaction to the contrast material, with hives and itching and, in rare cases, shortness of breath, fever, and shock. These allergic reactions can usually be controlled with medicines.
  • Kidney damage. In rare cases, the contrast material can damage the kidneys, possibly causing kidney failure. People with diabetes and kidney disease are at greatest risk for kidney damage.
  • Heart attack or stroke.
  • The need for more procedures or surgery to take care of complications.

Radiation risk. There is always a slight risk of damage to cells or tissues from being exposed to any radiation, including the low levels of X-ray used for this test. But the risk of damage from the X-rays is, in most cases, very low compared with the potential benefits of the test.


Cardiac catheterization is a test to check your heart and coronary arteries camera.gif.

Test results will be reviewed by a cardiologist and will be available after the procedure. Your doctor will be able to talk to you about some of the results immediately after the test.

Results will include whether:

  • Coronary arteries are normal or have narrowing or blockage.
  • The heart's pumping action (ejection fraction) and pressures inside the heart chambers and blood vessels are normal.
  • The heart valves are working normally.

Many conditions can affect the results of a cardiac catheterization. Your doctor will discuss any significant abnormal results with you in relation to your symptoms and past health.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Extreme anxiety that causes high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats.
  • Kidney or liver failure.
  • Inability to follow directions during the procedure.

What To Think About

  • This test usually is not done on people who have had severe allergic reactions to contrast material, poorly controlled heart failure, life-threatening heart rhythm problems, or advanced kidney disease.
  • Cardiac catheterization is not usually done during pregnancy because the radiation could damage the developing fetus. But in a life-threatening emergency, this procedure may be necessary to help save a pregnant woman's life. In such cases, the fetus is protected as much as possible from radiation exposure with a lead apron.

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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