Cardiac catheterization, also known as a “heart cath,” is a procedure performed by your cardiologist to find out if you have disease of the heart muscles, valves or coronary arteries. Since its introduction in the 1950s, cardiac catheterization remains the gold standard for diagnosis of heart disease. Read on to learn more from cardiologist Dr. Anton Lishmanov.
Why do people have heart caths?
Indications for cardiac catheterization include:
- Suspected or known coronary artery disease
- Problems with heart valves
- Suspected or known pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs)
- Congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy
- Congenital heart disease
- Pericardial disease
- To evaluate the cause of heart rhythm problem
What happens during cardiac catheterization?
In cardiac catheterization, your doctor puts a small, flexible, hollow tube (called a catheter) into a blood vessel through your groin, arm or neck. After the catheter is inserted, it is threaded through the blood vessels into your heart. Once the catheter is in place, several tests may be done.
What are the risks?
Cardiac catheterizations are usually very safe. A small number of people have minor problems. Some develop bruises at the catheter insertion site. The contrast dye that makes the arteries show up on X-rays can cause some people to feel sick to their stomachs, get itchy or develop hives.
How do I prepare for a heart cath?
- You will be asked not to eat or drink anything for six to eight hours before the cath procedure.
- Tell your doctor about any medications (including over the counter and vitamins) you take. Don’t stop taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
- Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any allergies.
- Arrange to have someone drive you home after your procedure.
What happens after a cardiac catheterization?
- 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. This common side effect should disappear within a few weeks.