Cardiac Catheterization Procedures

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Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic procedure used to help determine whether there is problem with your heart. In some cases, treatment can be administered at this time as well.

During this procedure, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into an artery in your arm, leg, groin or neck — and then guided to your heart.

Your interventional cardiologist then threads various tools through this catheter in order to visualize your heart, take a biopsy or perform other tests that can help diagnose various heart conditions.

Our Expert Approach to Cardiac Catheterization

At Houston Methodist, our interventional cardiologists lead the field in using catheterization to diagnose and treat heart disease.

As often as possible, our experts give the option of a transradial cardiac catheterization — in which the catheter is inserted through an artery in your arm. This advanced technique offers numerous advantages, including:

  • Reduced bleeding
  • Fewer complications
  • Improved patient experience


Cardiac catheterization can also be used to treat some heart conditions. Our experts leverage their extensive experience and team-based approach to offer this less invasive approach whenever possible to treat heart conditions.

About Cardiac Catheterization

When Is Cardiac Catheterization Used to Diagnose a Heart Condition?

Via cardiac catheterization, an interventional cardiologist can:

  • Look for blockages in your blood vessels (also called an angiogram)
  • Check oxygen and pressure levels in your heart
  • Take a biopsy of your heart tissue (also called endomyocardial biopsy)
  • Look at your heart’s valves
  • Identify a congenital heart defect
  • Collect blood samples from inside your heart

The tests performed via cardiac catheterization can help diagnose the following heart conditions:

How Is Cardiac Catheterization Used to Treat Heart Conditions?

In addition to its use in diagnosing heart conditions, cardiac catheterization is sometimes a component of various nonsurgical heart treatment options.

The types of heart procedures that can performed via cardiac catheterization include:

  • Coronary or peripheral angioplasty – restores blood flow to the heart by opening blood vessels that are narrow or blocked (also called percutaneous coronary intervention)
  • Stenting – often performed during angioplasty, a small wire mesh tube is inserted to help keep the blood vessel open
  • Radiofrequency ablation – creates a barrier between damaged heart tissue and healthy heart tissue, preventing abnormal electrical signals from traveling to the rest of the heart
  • Atherectomy – removes plaque buildup in the coronary arteries
  • Percutaneous septal defect – used to repair a hole in the muscular wall between the left and right heart chambers
  • Balloon valvuloplasty – opens narrowed heart valves using a small balloon
  • Alcohol septal ablation – improves blood flow by destroying abnormally thickened heart muscle
  • Brachytherapy – places a new stent inside of an old stent to prevent renarrowing of a blood vessel
  • LARIAT or WATCHMAN procedure – closes off the heart's left atrial appendage, the primary source of blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib)

What Should I Expect During My Cardiac Catheterization Procedure?

Cardiac catheterization is performed in a hospital’s catheterization (cath) lab. This is a room with special imaging machines and other tools needed for catheterization.

In most cases, cardiac catheterization is performed while you are awake, but sedated. Some procedures, however, including ablation and valve repair, may require general anesthesia.

During this procedure, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into an artery vessel in the arm, groin or neck and guided to the heart. Your interventional cardiologist is then able to thread tiny tools through the catheter to diagnose or treat your heart condition.


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