Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catherization is the insertion of a catherter, a thin flexible tube, into the right or left side of the heart, usually from the groin or arm. The procedure is typically used to find out more information about the heart but it is also used to treat some types of heart conditions.


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  • An angiogram is an x-ray exam that allows the radiologist to study blood vessels and organs by injecting a contrast material into the blood vessels so they may visualize the vessel anatomy. An angiogram examination assists your doctor in making a diagnosis. The cardiologist interprets the information from the procedure and reports it to your doctor, who, in turn, will discuss the report with you.

   Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization

  • In this procedure, catheters (small tubes) are placed into the veins or arteries in the neck, legs and/or arms and fed into the heart chambers. Catheterization enables the doctor to detect any abnormalities in the chamber or major vessels that might interfere with their proper functionality. He or she can measure pressure, view the insides of the blood vessels and narrow or widen the blood valve. Catheters can clear a blocked artery, and can also monitor how much blood is being transferred within the heart.

   Coronary Angioplasty

  • An angioplasty is a common procedure that is used to dissolve blockage in an artery – in this case, the main artery leading to the heart - through the insertion of a small "balloon." After the balloon is inserted into the narrowed portion of the artery, it is inflated, thus widening the artery and restoring proper blood flow. This harmless technique can also help to improve symptoms of coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD, a condition that occurs when a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries results in blockage of blood flow, is the most common form of heart disease in the United States. Coronary angioplasty can also be performed on an emergency basis to reduce damage to the heart muscle caused by a heart attack.

   Peripheral Angioplasty

  • Like coronary angioplasty, peripheral angioplasty treats arterial blockage and narrowing through the insertion of a small balloon. When this procedure is performed on major arteries other than the coronary artery, it is known as peripheral angioplasty. It is often used to treat peripheral vascular disease (PVD), which affects more than two million people in the United States. PVD is caused by atherosclerosis, which is a process where fat, cholesterol and calcium build up on the walls of the arteries, reducing the proper flow of blood to essential parts of the body such as the brain, heart and lungs. Peripheral angioplasty can help to prevent further complications such as claudication (severe cramps when walking, caused by PVD affecting the legs), stroke and some cases of high blood pressure.

   Carotid Stenting

  • Carotid stenting is the insertion of a small metal tube known as a stent to widen the carotid artery (the vessel responsible for blood flow to the brain) if it has been hindered by plaque buildup. During the procedure, the physician localizes narrow, weak blood vessels by injecting a dye into the veins, performing a fluoroscopy (a test providing a live x-ray image) to detect blockage in the veins. This helps guide the physician in proper placement of the carotid stent.

Generally, the above procedures follow this process:

  • There is little preparation necessary prior to the procedure, however, you:
    • should have no food or drink after midnight on the night before the angiogram.
    • should empty your bladder before the exam.
    • may have other lab tests taken before the exam.
    • will have an IV in place prior to entering the procedure room.
  • You should tell your nurse or doctor if you have pain or anxiety, and would like medication.
  • In the procedure room, you:
    • will be assisted onto an x-ray table.
    • will have the area cleaned and shaved where the small incision will be made.
    • will have a blood pressure cuff, a heart monitor, and a pulse oximeter on your finger.
    • will have a sterile drape placed on you.
    • will be asked to keep your arms at your side.
  • A small catheter will be inserted into the desired blood vessel through the small incision.
  • The injection of contrast material is given, and you will feel a hot sensation that will last 5-20 seconds. It is very important that you remain very still during this short period of time.
  • The x-rays are taken.
  • The catheter is then removed and pressure applied over the area for about 10-20 minutes to keep the artery from bleeding.
  • You will be asked to lie flat in bed in a recovery room for several hours after the procedure. You may be given intravenous fluids and encouraged to take oral fluids. Your blood pressure and pulse will be monitored, and the catheter entry site checked to make sure there is no leakage from it. Any swelling, bleeding, or pain that you notice in the area where the catheter was placed should be brought to your nurse's attention.
  • At home, drink plenty of fluids and resume your usual diet as directed by your doctor. Avoid strenuous activities (including climbing stairs, driving, or walking any distance) for at least 12 hours. Do not take a hot bath or shower for at least 12 hours. Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
    • bleeding at the puncture site
    • unusual pain or swelling at the puncture site
    • abnormal discoloration or temperature change in the arm or leg of the puncture site -- however, a small bruise is not unusual.