Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic test performed to visualise the coronary arteries in order to identify the location and degree of any blockages.
During cardiac catheterization, your Cardiologist will insert a long, thin tube into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. The tube will be gently directed to the heart and to the origin of the coronary arteries. Dye is then injected into the coronary artery while x-ray pictures are taken. The dye in the coronary arteries is seen by the x-ray as a white line. A disruption of the white line may signify an area of plaque build-up inside the wall of the artery.
During this same procedure, dye is injected into the heart's pumping chambers in order to see how well the heart muscle is contracting and how well the valves are working. Pressure measurements are also taken at this time and are interpreted by your physician and by a computer.
You may be asked to attend our rooms prior to the procedure for an ECG. Otherwise you will be given instructions to attend the Hospital fasted (no food or drink for 4 hours prior to your procedure). You may drink a little water to take with your medications.
About one hour before the procedure, you may be given a mild sedative to help you relax, but not put you to sleep. An intravenous line may also be started. You will remain awake but comfortable throughout the procedure so you can follow the doctor's instructions.
You will be taken into the 'cath lab' on a trolley, and then moved onto an Xray table. You will have electrodes placed on your chest (as for an ECG). Your groin or inner elbow area will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution and then your body covered with sterile drapes.
The Cardiologist will inject your groin or arm with a local anaesthetic known as Lignocaine, and then insert a small catheter into your blood vessels.
The catheter will be guided via the blood vessels to the heart. Via this catheter and into your heart and coronary arteries there will be several injections of the dye. The catheter may be moved around during the procedure in order to get different views of your heart and coronary arteries. The dye can cause a flushed feeling all over your body. This will last only for some 15 to 20 seconds. This is a normal reaction to the dye and is not a cause for concern.
During the catheterization procedure you may be asked to breathe deeply and cough. You will be able to communicate with your Cardiologist through the procedure, however due to the sedation you may not recall the episode. The procedure usually takes no longer than an hour.
Once the catheterization is completed, the catheter is removed and firm pressure is applied to the incision in your groin or arm for approximately 10-30 minutes. You will be required to lie flat for 2 hours after the procedure to allow the catheter insertion point to seal. You may have a type of seal inserted as an alternative. During this period you will have nursing staff in attendance, and your blood pressure, catheter site and symptoms will be monitored.
Your Cardiologist will discuss your findings with you immediately after the procedure.
Most patients will be discharged and released later the same day of their procedure. You may notice some bruising at the catheter insertion site as well as a hard lump. If you are concerned about any aspects of your recovery after discharge, you should follow the contact instructions given to you by the Hospital after the procedure.
The information gained from the cardiac catheterisation will provide very precise information about your heart. Following this procedure, you and your Cardiologist will be in a better position to decide what options of treatment options are best for you.