Cardiac Catheterization

Also known as a "Heart Cath", cardiac catheterization involves passing a thin flexible tube (catheter) into the right or left side of the heart. The catheter is most often inserted from the groin or the arm.

You will get medicine before the test to help you relax. The health care provider will clean a site on your arm, neck, or groin and insert a line into one of your veins. This is called an intravenous (IV) line.

A larger thin plastic tube called a sheath is placed into a vein or artery in your leg or arm. Then longer plastic tubes called catheters are carefully moved up into the heart using live x-rays as a guide. Then the doctor can:

  • Collect blood samples from the heart
  • Measure pressure and blood flow in the heart's chambers and in the large arteries around the heart
  • Measure the oxygen in different parts of your heart
  • Examine the arteries of the heart
  • Perform a biopsy on the heart muscle

For some procedures, you may be injected with a dye that helps your doctor to visualize the structures and vessels within the heart. 

The test may last 30 - 60 minutes. If you also need special procedures, the test may take longer. If the catheter is placed in your groin, you will often be asked to lie flat on your back for a few to several hours after the test to avoid bleeding.