You may be referred to the cardiac cath lab for a procedure called cardiac catheterization if your physician suspects a heart problem, such as coronary artery disease, defective heart valves or an electrical conduction problem. This diagnostic test allows your doctor to see how well your heart and coronary arteries are working and to look for any abnormalities or blockages.
In addition to scheduled procedures, SSM Health Heart & Vascular Care operates multiple 24-hour cardiac catheterization labs across our regions if you require emergency angioplasty.
What is Cardiac Catheterization?
Cardiac catheterization is a special X-ray that allows your doctor to examine the heart and coronary arteries. You will be awake during the procedure, and it typically takes less than one hour.
During the procedure, your physician will insert a thin, flexible tube (called a catheter) into an artery in your arm or leg. The catheter is then passed through, toward your heart, with your doctor following its movement on a TV monitor. Once the catheter is in place, your doctor will inject dye (or contrast) to help pinpoint any problems with your coronary arteries. When the procedure is complete, your physician will remove the catheter, and a nurse or technician will apply pressure for 15 to 20 minutes.
Preparing for the Test
Cardiac catheterization is usually performed in a hospital. Before your cardiac catheterization, your physician will arrange for you to have several routine tests, including an EKG, blood work and a chest X-ray.
Your doctor will also provide you with a few instructions to follow before your procedure. Be sure to follow these specific instructions to properly prepare for the procedure.
After Your Cardiac Catheterization
After your cardiac catheterization, your physician will return to explain your results . Sometimes the procedure will show that your heart is just fine. If there is a problem though, your physician will discuss all possible treatments.
Plan to take it easy for a few days after the procedure. Avoid heavy lifting, and stick to light activities for a few days. You may have a small bruise or lump the size of an olive under the skin at the insertion site. This should go away within a few weeks.
What if There is a Narrowing or Blockage?
If your cardiac catheterization reveals a blockage or narrowing in the coronary arteries your health may be in jeopardy. In the case of a narrowing or blocked artery, your interventional cardiologist may perform a balloon angioplasty or stent procedure.
Vascular stenting, which is often performed at the same time as angioplasty, involves placing a small wire mesh tube called a stent in your newly opened artery. The stent is a permanent device that is left in the artery to help keep the artery open.
When to Call Your Doctor
Be sure to call your doctor if:
- The insertion site bleeds
- You feel chest pain or discomfort
- Your arm or leg feels numb or cold
- The bruising or swelling gets worse or increases
- You have a fever
- Signs of infection appear at the insertion site
If your test reveals the presence of heart disease, or you undergo a procedure to open narrowed coronary arteries, you may wish to speak with your physician about the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehab aims to heal and strengthen your heart through education and a safe, monitored exercise program. This valuable program can help you lead a healthier, more active life.
When you need critical care like cardiac catheterization, you want to know you’re in good hands. SSM Health Heart & Vascular Care offers the most progressive care from the most technologically advanced team in the region.