Cardiac catheterization provides accurate and detailed information about the heart's function. It enables doctors to diagnose a number of heart conditions like coronary heart disease, defective heart valves, and congenital heart defects.

How it Works

This procedure involves the insertion of a long, thin, flexible tube, otherwise known as a catheter, into a vein or artery and directing it toward the heart. The catheter is normally inserted in a vein or artery located in the groin or arm.

There are three main types of cardiac catheterizations. The first one measures the pressure inside the heart so that the doctor can assess the heart's pumping function and the severity of any defects. The second type, known as a coronary angiogram, involves inserting specially shaped catheters and directing them toward the coronary artery openings. Then dye is placed into the catheter so that a x-ray camera is able to take pictures of any blockages. The third procedure, a left ventriculogram is very similar to the coronary angiogram except that the catheter is directed toward the left ventricle. This allows the doctor to diagnose a hole in the heart or a leaky valve.

Postoperative Care

After your catheterization you will need to lie flat for one to four hours. This will allow a seal to form over the puncture in the artery.

Following catheterization your doctor will decide what type of treatment should be used considering the results of the various diagnostic tests. One type of treatment is medication. Although the medications do not cure the problem, they might stabilize and reduce symptoms enough to continue on with your daily life. Coronary angioplasty is another option for a patient. In most instances angioplasty can be performed at the time of catheterization. This is a non-surgical technique used to open up the blocked arteries. Another type of treatment is heart surgery.

Basically, no matter what form of treatment the doctor recommends, the patient needs to make some changes in their lifestyle. For example, the patient might want to start a diet that is low in fat and cholesterol, try to exercise regularly, and reduce tension and stress in their lives.