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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Tests and Exams > Cardiac Catheterization
      Category : Health Centers > Heart Diseases

Cardiac Catheterization

Alternate Names : Coronary Angiography, Heart Catheterization, Coronary Angiogram, Cardiac Angiography

Overview & Description | Preparation & Expectations | Results and Values

Cardiac catheterization is a test used to diagnose abnormalities of the coronary blood vessels. These vessels supply blood to your heart. The test can also be used to observe your heart chambers and heart valves. The supplies used for this exam include:

  • long thin tubes, called catheters
  • a TV system
  • an X-ray machine
  • First, a catheter is inserted through your skin and into your artery. An artery in your groin is the usual entry site. Dye is then injected through the catheter. X-ray pictures are taken as the dye travels through your arteries.

    Who is a candidate for the test?

    This test may be advised for people who have or are suspected to have one of the following conditions:

  • abnormal enlargement of the heart
  • angina, whether stable angina or unstable angina, which is the chest pain that you get when too little oxygen reaches your heart for a short period
  • coronary artery disease, which is a blockage in the arteries that supply blood to your heart, and is often the cause of angina and heart attacks
  • heart attack, which occurs when your heart is permanently damaged from not getting enough oxygen over an extended period
  • heart defects present at birth, also called congenital heart disease
  • irregular heartbeats, which are also called arrhythmias
  • How is the test performed?

    Cardiac catheterization is done in a special room with cameras, TV screens, and X-ray devices. Usually, the doctor who performs the test is a heart specialist, also called a cardiologist. Sometimes, an X-ray specialist, called a radiologist, may perform the test. During the procedure, the doctor and his or her assistants operate the equipment in the suite. A nurse checks your vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure, throughout the exam.

    During the test, you lie on a flat platform. The doctor selects an artery in which to insert the catheter. The femoral artery in the right groin is used most often. The skin in the groin area is numbed with local anesthesia. A small needle is then inserted through your skin and into your artery. Next, the doctor inserts a catheter into your artery through the small puncture made with the needle.

    After being placed in the artery, the catheter can be pushed up into your aorta. This is the largest artery in your body. It connects directly to your heart and can be used to get into your heart chambers. Your coronary arteries, which supply blood and oxygen to your heart, also stem from the aorta. An X-ray machine is used to help guide the catheter into proper position.

    Dye is used to light up the structures of your heart and its arteries. The dye is injected into the catheter and enters your heart and heart arteries. This allows these structures to be clearly seen, as the dye used is easily seen when X-ray pictures are taken. Pictures are taken with an x-ray machine as the dye travels through your heart and heart arteries. The doctor usually takes several pictures of your heart filled with dye from different angles and positions. More than one injection of the dye is often needed. The images can be projected onto a TV or video screen so that the doctor can view your heart and its arteries during the test.

    The standard test will typically take less than an hour. In more complex cases, the exam may last for several hours. The doctor may sometimes see an abnormality during the test that can be corrected during the exam. For example, a procedure called angioplasty is sometimes used to open up clogged arteries. This involves inserting a balloon catheter or other device through the catheter to open the area of blockage.


    Next section


    Cardiac Catheterization: Preparation & Expectations

    Author: Lanita Dawson, MD
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 07/02/01

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