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Catheterization

physician and older patient

HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley provides the following information to help you understand the cardiac catheterization procedure. This information will also provide information on what to expect during and after the cardiac catheterization procedure and offer tips to prepare for an upcoming cardiac catheterization.

The Catheterization Laboratory at HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley

The Catheterization Laboratory at HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley is a large space, designated for catheterization procedures and containing all of the related electronic equipment. Not all of the cameras, monitors, or instruments will be necessary for a procedure, but they are there, set up, and ready to use in case they are needed.

What is cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic test from which a physician can determine pressure in each chamber of the heart, the condition of each valve, the pumping capability of the heart muscle, and the blood supply through the coronary arteries.

A catheter is a small, flexible tube. Catheterization is the process of inserting that tube into a blood vessel and then gently and painlessly advancing it into the heart. The procedure makes it possible to determine the ability of the coronary arteries to deliver oxygenated blood to the heart muscle, and to examine the heart muscle function itself.

Heart catheterization is the only procedure available which allows a physician to accurately determine the presence, degree and location of coronary artery disease. Based on this test, a physician will prescribe the proper treatment.


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In the procedure, during which the patient will be mildly sedated, a doctor will insert one or more catheters into an artery, a vein or both, located in either the arm or groin. Using an X-Ray monitor to guide the catheter toward the heart, the doctor may ask the patient to help by breathing deeply, holding his or her breath, or coughing.

One of the most valuable reasons for catheterization is to fully understand and visualize the blood flowing through the heart and coronary arteries. The process of injecting dye into a catheter is known as angiography. X-Ray images are then produced that will show the motion of the heart wall and the leakage of blood back through the valves, so a physician can locate blockages.

During the procedure, the patient will lie on his or her back and a nurse will attach small electrodes connecting to a heart monitor. A small IV catheter will be inserted into the left arm in case the physician wants the patient to receive any medication or fluids during the procedure.

The area where the catheter will be inserted will be shaved and sterilized. Sterile drapes will be placed over the body to minimize the risk of infection. The entire preparation process takes about 1 hour. The patient will then be given a local anesthetic, which may feel like a bee sting and creates only temporary discomfort.
  • The angiography may cause nausea, so an empty stomach is advised
  • Morning procedure: no food or drink from midnight on
  • Afternoon procedure: liquid breakfast
  • Prescribed medications are OK if taken with water
  • Please arrive an hour before your scheduled appointment
  • Once in the facility, the patient will change into a hospital gown and be asked some questions about his or her general health
  • The patient will empty his or her bladder
  • A sedative will be administered
  • The procedure takes about 2 hours
  • The patient may visit with family and friends before and after the procedure
  • Patients must make arrangements to be driven home, and it is advisable to have someone stay with him or her for the night after the procedure in case assistance is needed
  • The traditional approach to the heart is done through the groin, although the physician may elect to go through the arm.
  • The patient will not experience any pain as there are no nerve endings in the artery
  • The patient may feel some pressure in the leg (or arm). This is normal.
  • The lights in the room may be dimmed and the patient may also hear the noise of the camera as it moves
  • The table the patient is lying on will move to improve the view of the heart and the coronary arteries
  • Follow the directions provided by the physician. If asked to give a deep and hard cough, it is important that the patient does so immediately. This will clear any dye from the heart.
  • If the patient experiences any chest pain, he or she must inform the medical staff immediately.
  • When the dye is inserted, the patient may feel a warm flush sensation throughout the body. This is normal.
  • Once the procedure is completed, the incision will be closed with a suture if on the arm, or manual pressure will be applied on the groin for about 20 minutes until the bleeding stops.

Once the procedure is completed, the patient will be returned to his or her room and monitored by the nursing staff for a length of time determined by the physician. The patient should move as little as possible. He or she will be asked to drink an increased amount of fluid to help flush out the dye in the system. If the incision was done at the groin, a nurse will help with a bedpan.

As the anesthetic wears off, the patient may experience some numbness or tingling in the arm or leg. This is normal. The area around where the catheter was inserted may also be tender.

After the recovery period, the patient may go home with written instructions on the care of your incision. The physician will advise on how quickly he or she can return to normal activities.

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Kingston, NY 12401
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