Cardiac Cath

Cardiac catheterization, or cath, is performed to determine how well your heart works, identifies problems and allows for procedures to open blocked arteries. The procedure is conducted at the hospital and identifies many diseases of the valves, arteries or the heart muscle.

A catheter is a thin hollow tube that is inserted into a blood vessel leading to the heart. Your physician may do any of the following during the cath:

  • Inject a dye through the catheter to look for narrowed or block coronary arteries using x-rays. This is called coronary angiography or coronary arteriography.
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, opens up blocked or narrowed arteries by inserting a stent (a tiny tube to keep the vessel open).
  • Check the pressure in the four chambers of your heart.
  • Measure the oxygen content in your heart with a blood sample.
  • Examine the contraction of the heart chambers.
  • Evaluate any damage to the valves or chambers.

As preparation for the cardiac catherization, you will need to follow your doctor’s instructions:

  • Diet restrictions on food and drink during the 24 hours before the test. Normally you will be asked to refrain from eating or drinking anything for six to eight hours before the procedure.
  • Restrictions on the medications you normally take.
  • Your doctor or nurse will ask about allergies.
  • It will be necessary to have someone drive you home after being released.

The procedure lasts about an hour. Afterward you will be taken to a recovery room for a few hours. Upon release from the hospital, you will be given written instructions on home care for your cath site.

Follow the doctor’s instructions. However, most people can resume normal activities the day after your cath procedure.