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Cardiac Catheterization

You may have had angina, dizziness, or other symptoms of heart trouble. To help diagnose your problem, your doctor may suggest having a cardiac catheterization. This common procedure is sometimes also used to treat a heart problem.

View of a man's torso showing the catheter placement in the groin.
The catheter may be placed in the arm or the groin.

Before the Procedure

  • Tell your doctor what medicines you take and about any allergies you have.

  • Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight, the night before the procedure.

  • You may be admitted to the hospital on the day of the procedure.

  • Know that any hair on the skin where the catheter will be inserted may be removed. You may be given medication to relax before the procedure.

During the Procedure

  • You will receive a local anesthetic to prevent pain at the insertion site.

  • The doctor inserts an introducing sheath into a blood vessel in your groin or arm.

  • Through the sheath, a long, thin tube called a catheter is placed inside the artery and guided toward your heart.

  • To perform different tests or check other parts of the heart, the doctor inserts a new catheter or moves the catheter or X-ray machine.

  • For some tests, a contrast dye is injected through the catheter.

After the Procedure

  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you how long to lie down and keep the insertion site still.

  • If the insertion site was in your groin, you may need to lie down with your leg still for several hours.

  • A nurse will check your blood pressure and the insertion site.

  • You may be asked to drink fluid to help flush the contrast liquid out of your system.

  • Have someone drive you home from the hospital.

  • It’s normal to find a small bruise or lump at the insertion site. These common side effects should disappear within a few weeks.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Angina (chest pain).

  • Pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or drainage at the insertion site.

  • Severe pain, coldness, or a bluish color in the leg or arm that held the catheter.

  • Blood in your urine, black or tarry stools, or any other kind of bleeding.

  • Fever over 101°F (38.8°C)

Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2/26/2014
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