This page will give you information about a cardiac catheterisation. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is a cardiac catheterisation?
A cardiac catheterisation, or coronary angiogram, is a special test to find out if you have any problems with the coronary arteries (blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with oxygen), and to find out how well the pumping chambers and valves in your heart are working.
A cardiac catheterisation will give your doctor information about your heart that they cannot always get from other tests.
Your doctor may be concerned that you have narrowed or blocked coronary arteries, damaged or faulty heart valves, or a weak heart muscle.
Are there any alternatives to a cardiac catheterisation?
You can have exercise tests and scans, which have fewer risks. However, they may not give your doctor enough information.
What does the procedure involve?
A cardiac catheterisation usually takes about half an hour.
If appropriate, your cardiologist may offer you a sedative or painkiller.
A sheath (short, soft plastic tube used to access your artery) is usually inserted in your femoral artery near your groin or your radial artery near your wrist. Your cardiologist will insert a catheter (long, narrow plastic tube) through the sheath and along your artery to your heart. Your cardiologist will inject dye into the catheter so they can take x-rays to find out exactly where your coronary arteries have narrowed (see figure 1).
What complications can happen?
- False aneurysm or arterovenous fistula
- Kidney damage
- Allergic reaction
- Radiation exposure
- Blood clot
- Change in heart rhythm
- Blood leaking into the sac that surrounds the heart
- Heart attack
- StrokeDrop in blood pressure
- Radial artery spasm
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day.
It is important that you do not do any strenuous activity for about 24 hours. Your doctor may ask you to come back to the clinic to tell you the results and to discuss any treatment or follow-up you need.
A cardiac catheterisation is usually a safe and effective way of finding out about the problems you are having with your heart.
Author: Dr Julia Baron MD FRCP BMBS
Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2011 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved. www.nucleusinc.com
This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.