Doctors Corner



What is cardiac catheterization? — Cardiac catheterization or a coronary angiogram is a procedure cardiologists perform to look for certain heart problems. Doctors usually do the procedure to understand how your heart is working or why you have symptoms such as chest pain, shortnesss of breath or palpitations.

Many people who have chest pain will have blockages or narrowings in the arteries that supply the heart. Coronary angiography can tell if there are blockages present and how serious the blockages are. Cardiologists sometimes also do a cardiac cathetrization to look for problems in the heart chambers or valves .To get information about the heart chambers or valves, doctors can measure the pressures or amounts of oxygen in the blood in different parts of the heart.

How do I prepare for a cardiac catheterization? — You may have a light breakfast on the morning of the procedure.You must continue with all of your usual medication . However, if you are taking warfarin or pradaxa, you should stop this medication approximately 3 days prior to the coronary angiogram. The other blood thinning medication must be continued as usual.

What happens during a cardiac catheterization? — A cardiac catherisation is done in the hospital in special operating theatre called the cardiac catheterization laboratory (or cath lab). You will be completely awake during the procedure, but your doctor will give you medicine to help you feel relaxed.Your doctor will make a very small cut in the top, inner part of your leg (He will numb this area first.) He will put a long,thin plastic tube (or pipe), called a “catheter,” into the blood vessel below the cut. Then the tube will be advanced through your blood vessels to your heart . When the tube is in place, your doctor will do tests by injecting dye into the heart and the arteries that supply heart .X­rays will be taken at this time. The X­rays will show if any of the arteries in your heart are clogged. Your body might feel warm during this part of the test.

If your arteries are clogged, your doctor might do a procedure (angioplasty or stent) to open them. If there is a chance you will have this procedure, your doctor will talk to you about this beforehand.

What happens during a cardiac catheterization? — After the procedure, your doctor will remove the tube from your body and put pressure on the cut or seal the hole in the artery with a special device called an angioseal to prevent bleeding. You will need to rest in the hospital for a minimum of 4 hours. You will probably be able to go home ( usually the same day) after that, but someone else will need to drive you. If your doctor fixes theblockages in any of your arteries, you will probably need to stay in the hospital overnight.After the coronary angiogram, you will need to rest and take things easy for approximately a week. You will not be allowed to drive for the next 5 days after the procedure. Your doctor will make a follow­appointment to see you in about 6 weeks for a review.

What problems can happen after a cardiac catheterization? — The most common problems are bleeding, bruising, and soreness in the area where the tube was put in. These problems can last for a week or two but will get better and thereafter you will not even notice it.

Other problems can happen during or after a cardiac cathetrization, but they are rare. They include:

The area where the tube went in bleeds a lot. You get a fever or have pain, swelling, or redness where the tube went in. These symptoms could mean that you have an infection. Your leg is weak or numb. You have a recurrence of chest pain

As it is unlikely that you have had a coronary angiogram previously, having a such a procedure sounds daunting and it is not unusual to to feel somewhat apprehensive. Feel reassured that the procedure is low risk and usually free of serious complications.

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© 2018 Dr Zaid Mohamed, Dr Saleem Dawood & Dr Thayabran Pillay, Cardiologists. All Rights Reserved.
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