Cardiac Catheterization

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Chest pain and other symptoms could make you worried you're headed for a heart attackCardiac catheterization is a test that uses a small flexible tube (called a catheter) and an X-ray machine to find the cause of symptoms, like chest pain, that could suggest heart problems.

Cardiac catheterization helps your doctors:

  • Find narrowed or clogged arteries of the heart
  • Measure blood pressure inside your heart
  • Check your heart valves and chambers to see how they're working
  • See if you have heart defects
  • Check you if you have an enlarged heart
  • Decide on the best treatment

Getting Cardiac Catheterization at UVA Health

You'll get IV fluids and medicines during the procedure. We'll use an electrocardiogram (EKG) to watch your heart's activity.

You'll be awake but given local anesthesia so that you'll be more relaxed. You'll be asked to do some basic tasks, like as coughing, breathing out, or holding your breath. Tell your doctor if you feel any chest pain, lightheadedness, nausea, or other unusual feelings.

The doctor puts the catheter into your artery through either your groin or arm. A needle is put into your blood vessel, and a wire is passed through the needle until it reaches your heart. A soft, flexible catheter tube is slipped over the wire and threaded up to your heart.

X-ray pictures will show the placement of the wire and catheter. Dye is put into your heart arteries so they show up on the X-ray images. You may feel warm during the dye injection.

Once in place, the catheter takes measurements ,like blood pressure and blood samples. Multiple X-ray images are taken to look for any disease in the arteries. The catheter is taken out after all images and tests are complete.

balloon angioplasty and stenting may be needed if there's an area in your arteries that is narrow or clogged. These procedures help to open narrowed arteries.

Does Cardiac Catheterization Hurt?

Not usually. It can cause some discomfort, including:

  • Burning on your skin where medicine is put to numb it
  • Pressure when the catheter is put in or replaced with other catheters
  • A flushing feeling or nausea when the dye is is put in
  • Headache
  • Fast heartbeat

The procedure takes about 30-90 minutes.