What to Expect From a Heart Catheterization Procedure

If your cardiologist has recommended a heart catheterization procedure, you may have questions about what to expect. At AMS Cardiology, our team of cardiologists performs this diagnostic procedure to evaluate and treat various heart conditions. Below, we share an overview of what to expect during and after a heart catheterization.

What Is Heart Catheterization?

A heart catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure that allows your doctors to examine the structure and function of your heart and its blood vessels. During the procedure, a thin flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel typically in your arm or leg and guided to your heart. 

This technique provides your doctor with valuable information about your heart and blood vessels including:

  • Detecting blocked or narrowed arteries (coronary artery disease)
  • Measuring blood flow and pressure within the heart chambers
  • Evaluating the functionality of heart valves
  • Identifying congenital heart defects

The Heart Catheterization Procedure 

The heart catheterization procedure is performed in a specialized cardiac catheterization lab. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Preparation – Before the procedure, you’ll need to follow specific instructions from your doctor, such as fasting for a certain amount of time or adjusting your medications.
  • Anesthesia – You’ll receive a local anesthetic to numb the area where the catheter is inserted. You may also receive a sedative to help you relax during the procedure.
  • Catheter Insertion – Your cardiologist will make a small incision in your arm or groin and insert the catheter into a blood vessel. Using X-ray guidance, the catheter is maneuvered toward your heart. 
  • Diagnostic Tests – Once the catheter is in place, various tests may be performed like injecting contrast dye to visualize the arteries or taking blood samples to measure oxygen levels. 
  • Treatment – If any issues or blockages are discovered during the procedure, your doctor may perform a treatment such as angioplasty (opening blocked arteries) or valve repair/replacement during the same procedure.
  • Removal and Recovery – After the diagnostic treatment phases are complete, the catheter is removed and the insertion site is sutured. You’ll be monitored for a few hours as the effects of the anesthesia wear off. 

What to Expect After the Procedure

After a heart catheterization, you might experience some mild discomfort or bruising at the insertion site but this should subside in a few days. Your healthcare team will provide specific instructions for aftercare including guidelines for activity levels, medication adjustments and follow-up appointments. 

At AMS Cardiology, our interventional cardiology team is dedicated to ensuring your safety and comfort and we’re here to answer all your questions like “What is heart catheterization?”. We’ll be with you every step of the way, addressing any concerns you may have and providing personalized care tailored to your needs. If you have any additional questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 215-517-1000 or visit one of our locations. Our team is here to help you achieve optimal heart health.

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