Cardiac catheterization involves passing a thin flexible tube,
called a catheter, into the right or left side of the heart,
usually from the groin or the arm.
The procedure begins with an intravenous (IV) line being inserted
into one of the blood vessels in the arm, neck or groin. A
catheter is then inserted through the IV and into the blood
vessel. The catheter is carefully threaded into the heart using
an x-ray machine that produces real-time pictures called
fluoroscopy. Once the catheter is in place, the physician may
collect blood samples from the heart, measure pressure and blood
flow in the heart's chambers and arteries, measure the oxygen in
different parts of the heart, or perform a biopsy of the heart
During catheterization, the patient will be awake and able to
follow instructions. A mild sedative is usually given 30 minutes
before the test to promote relaxation. The patient may feel some
discomfort at the site where the catheter is placed. Local
anesthesia will be used to numb the site, so the only sensation
should be pressure at the site.
Generally, catheterization is performed to get information about
the heart or blood vessels or to provide treatment for certain
types of heart conditions. It may also be used to determine
whether heart surgery is needed.
Cardiac catheterization can also be used to repair certain types
of heart defects, repair a stuck (stenotic) heart valve or open
blocked arteries in the heart.
Cardiac catheterization carries a slightly higher risk than other
heart tests but is very safe when performed by an experienced
team. Generally, the risks include:
Possible complications of catheterization include:
- Bleeding, infection and pain at the IV site
- A very small risk that the soft plastic catheters could
damage the blood vessels
- Blood clots could form on the catheters and later block blood
vessels elsewhere in the body.
- The contrast material could damage the kidneys (particularly
in patients with diabetes).
Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart
and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While
various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of
our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology
highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and
vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.