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Cardiac Catheterization

A cardiac catherization is performed to determine if there is blockage (plaque buildup or atherosclerosis) within the coronary arteries which can reduce the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart.

What is the test?

A coronary catheterization (also called a cath or angiogram) is an invasive diagnostic test which allows your cardiologist to evaluate for coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary (heart) arteries.

While taking X-ray images, a small tube called a catheter, will be guided through blood vessels to your heart. Once the catheter is in place a contrast agent will be injected to help identify blockages of your coronary arteries. If blockages are present and left untreated, the artery can become more narrowed over time or crack, which can result in a heart attack.

Patient Preparation

  • One of our staff will call you a day or two prior to your procedure to review your health history and to give you specific instructions.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure because you need to be fasting for at least 6 hours prior. 
  • Medications should be taken as scheduled unless special instructions are given. If your medications need to be taken with food/liquids, discuss your medication schedule for the testing day with your doctor.
  • Be sure to mention to the doctor or nurse if you have any allergies such as allergies to x-ray dye (contrast) or shellfish.
  • Make arrangements with a family member or friend to drive you home after the procedure—you will not be permitted to drive. Family members and or friends can wait in an assigned area while your procedure is taking place.
  • Pack a small bag in case your doctor decides to keep you overnight in the hospital. You may want to include a robe, slippers, toiletries, and a book / word games (something to pass the time).
  • Please leave money, jewelry, and other valuables at home unless a family member or friend can hold them for you during the procedure.
  • Bring a list of all medications you are currently taking. Your doctor may want to continue them while you recover from your procedure.
  • Please tell your doctor if you are on any blood thinners such as aspirin, Plavix, Warfarin, etc.

Should I take my medications the day of the test?

Take your medications as directed by your physician unless specifically requested to hold them prior to procedure.

Where is the catheterization performed? Who performs it?

Cardiac catheterizations are performed in the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at EvergreenHealth. Catheterizations are performed by specially trained cardiologists and they are assisted by highly skilled registered technologists and registered nurses.

What to expect and how long does the procedure last?

The test will be explained in detail and informed consent will be obtained. You will have the opportunity to ask your cardiologist questions before we begin.

You will be given a mild sedative to relax you, but you will be awake and conscious during the procedure. After the insertion site (wrist or groin) is prepped, the cardiologist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area; this may cause some minor discomfort. After the catheter is in place, you won't feel much as the procedure moves forward.

The cardiac catherization procedure itself generally takes approximately 30 minutes, but the preparation and recovery will add several hours to your total appointment time. You should plan on being at the hospital for 4-6 hours. 

What are the possible risks?

Your cardiologist will discuss the specific risks and potential benefits of the procedure with you. The most common possible risks of cardiac catherization are:

  • Allergic reaction to the medication or contrast material used during the procedure
  • Bleeding at the catheter insertion site

There may be other possible risks. Your cardiologist will go over the risks and possible complications with you. Please ask questions to make sure you understand why the procedure is recommended and what all of the potential risks are.

How do I get the results of my test?

After the procedure the cardiologist will discuss the results with you. However due to the sedatives used, often times patients don't remember much of the test or the conversation afterwards. In most cases the cardiologist will try to discuss the results (if approved) with your attending family members. Otherwise you will be called at a later time with results. 

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