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Heart Disease Health Center

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Cardiac Catheterization

How It Feels continued...

The temperature in the cath lab is kept cool. This keeps the equipment from overheating. For many people, the hardest part of the test is having to lie still for an hour or more on the hard table. You may feel some stiffness or cramping.

After you go home

You may have some soreness and bruising at the insertion site. This is temporary and should go away within 2 weeks. It is normal for the site to feel tender for about a week.

Call your doctor right away if:

  • Your arm or leg gets pale, cold, painful, or numb.
  • You have a fast-growing, painful lump where the catheter went in.
  • You get redness, swelling, or discharge where the catheter went in.
  • You have a fever.


Complications from the catheter include:

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

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

  • Sudden closure of the coronary artery.
  • A small tear in the inner lining of the artery.
  • An allergic reaction to the contrast material. This may include hives and itching and, in rare cases, shortness of breath, fever, and shock. These problems can usually be treated with medicines.
  • Kidney damage. In rare cases, the contrast material can damage the kidneys. This may cause kidney failure. People with diabetes and kidney disease are at greatest risk for kidney damage.
  • Heart attack or stroke.

More procedures or surgery may be needed 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. This includes 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.

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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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