Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac Catheterization

What is a cardiac catheterization (also called cardiac cath)?

In cardiac catheterization (often abbreviated as "cath"), a very small catheter (hollow tube) is advanced from a vessel in the groin (or sometimes the arm) up into the heart.

Once the catheter is in place, several diagnostic techniques may be used. The tip of the catheter can be placed into various parts of the heart to measure the pressure within the chambers. The catheter can be advanced into the coronary arteries and a dye injected into the arteries (coronary angiography or arteriography). With the use of fluoroscopy (a special type of X-ray), the doctor can identify blockages in the coronary arteries as the dye moves through them.

You are awake during the procedure, although you will receive a small amount of sedating medication, as well as local anesthesia at the catheter entry site, prior to the procedure.

Due to advances in knowledge, technology, and techniques, cardiac cath is often performed on an outpatient basis, meaning that the procedure is done early in the day and you may be able to go home the same day. Depending on what your doctor finds during the procedure; however, you may have to be admitted to the hospital. This procedure is also often performed on patients who are already in the hospital.

Why is cardiac catheterization done?

Your doctor may schedule you for a cardiac catheterization if you have recently had one or more episodes of cardiac symptoms such as, but not limited to, the following:

A screening examination or test such as an EKG or stress test is generally done for initial evaluation of symptoms such as those listed above. If such a test suggests a possibility of some type of heart disease that needs to be explored further, the doctor may determine that a cardiac cath is necessary for more definitive diagnostic data.

Other reasons for the cath procedure include evaluation of myocardial perfusion (blood flow to the heart muscle) after heart attack, heart bypass surgery, coronary angioplasty (the opening of a coronary artery using a balloon or other method), or stent placement (a tiny expandable metal coil placed inside the artery to keep the artery open). There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend a cath procedure as well.

Cardiac catheterization is also used to detect and evaluate heart conditions or diseases, including the following:

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Online Resources of Cardiovascular Disease


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