Cardiac catheterization or “angiogram” is a procedure that injects dye directly into the heart’s arteries to determine if an artery is blocked. Other portions of the test can directly measure the pressure in the heart and across valves.
We can also examine your coronary arteries for signs of heart disease. Cardiac catheterization is commonly used to evaluate cases of heart attack (myocardial infarction), chest pain (angina), arrhythmia, heart valve disease, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, fainting, shortness of breath and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Cardiac Catheterization Overview
If you have experienced signs and symptoms of heart disease, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a cardiac catheterization, or “cath.”
Your cardiologist performs the cardiac cath in an area of the hospital known as the cath lab. During the procedure, your doctor identifies what is causing the symptoms of heart disease. We are looking for:
- Narrowing of the arteries
- Structural problems within the heart
Based on the results of your cardiac catheterization, your cardiologist will discuss the plan of care for you. If you choose an interventional approach, your doctor will tell you about the several types of cardiac interventional procedures.
Before you undergo a cardiac catheterization, your cardiologist will discuss the procedure with you in detail. You will have a chance to ask any questions you may have.
Cardiac Cath: What to Expect
Here’s what you can expect during a cardiac cath:
- Your cardiologist inserts the catheter, a long, flexible tube, into your artery. We use the groin area or wrist and gently direct the catheter to the heart.
- Using X-ray equipment to track the movement of the catheter, your doctor takes pictures of your heart and coronary arteries.
- We are able to identify any problems with the arteries or your heart.
- The results of this procedure provide your cardiologist with the information needed to recommend further tests or treatment for you.
Cardiac Catheterization: Radial Access
Traditionally, doctors used the artery in the groin as the entry point when performing cardiac catheterization. Our cardiologists often use the wrist as an access point, known as the radial artery.
Learn more about Cardiac Catheterization: Radial Artery Access.
Cardiac Catheterization Results
After your cardiac catheterization, your doctor will discuss the results with you. Most likely, the results indicate one of the following:
- Your coronary arteries are healthy, without signs of blockage. In this case, we may recommend further testing to diagnose the source of your symptoms.
- You have some degree of blockage in the arteries. We will usually prescribe medication for you to control your symptoms and/or lessen your future risk of a heart attack.
- You need immediate treatment to improve the blood flow to your heart. We may perform a cardiac interventional procedure at the time of your cath procedure, or we may schedule it for another time.
- You may need coronary artery bypass surgery.