What is a cardiac catheterization?

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During a cardiac catheterization, or "cardiac cath," a thin, hollow tube called a catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel that leads to your heart. The catheter is commonly inserted in an artery or vein in your groin or arm.

A contrast dye flows through the catheter and through the heart arteries. The dye's path can be seen on X-ray images, allowing doctors to see any possible blockages.

Cardiac catheterization is a new way to look at coronary arteries, says Kenneth Zelnick, MD, of Westside Regional Medical Center. Learn more about this procedure and how it is being used to prevent heart attacks. 

Cardiac catheterization involves the insertion of small tubes into a chamber or vessel of the heart under X-ray guidance to detect obstructions or malformations. Nearly 4 million cardiac catheterizations are performed in the United States each year.

In cardiac catheterization, your doctor inserts a long, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in your groin, arm or wrist. The catheter is then threaded to your heart. This procedure helps your doctor see how well your heart is pumping, inspects the arteries that feed your heart and examines your heart valves. It may also be called cardiac cath, heart cath or an angiogram.

Dr. Richard Scherczinger, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Cardiac catheterization is a common non-surgical procedure used to help diagnose a heart problem. During the procedure, a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and then guided toward your heart. Once the catheter is in place, x-rays and other tests are done to help your doctor learn how well your heart is working.

A cardiac catheterization (cath) is a procedure that passes a catheter in a blood vessel via veins in the groin or arm and then guided to the heart. A dye (contrast material visible on x-ray) is injected in the catheter to determine whether blockages or narrowing is present in the arteries and to measure how well the heart valves and muscle function.

Dr. Samin K. Sharma, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Cardiac Catheterization is an imaging procedure that allows your doctor to evaluate your heart function. It also aides in evaluating or confirming the presence of coronary artery disease or cardiac valve disease. During the catheterization, a long narrow tube called a sheath is inserted through a plastic introducer sheath (a short hollow tube that is inserted into your leg or arm). The catheter is guided through the blood vessel to the coronary arteries with aid of a special X-ray machine. Contrast material is injected through the catheter and x-ray rotating images are created. These digital photographs are created to identify the site of narrowing or blockage in the coronary artery.

Dr. Susie Whitworth, PhD
Nursing Specialist

Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic test used to detect heart disorders. It involves the passage of a flexible tube into the vessels and chambers of the heart. During the cardiac catheterization, fluoroscopic images are viewed and recorded and heart and great vessel pressures are measured.

Dr. Edward Chu, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

A cardiac cathterization is a common invasive heart procedure to diagnose blockages in the arteries, abnormalities of the heart muscle or valves and to measure blood pressure inside the heart or lung.

A cardiologists will use a small tube (catheter) and place it in an artery or vein into either the leg or arm. These catheters are passed into the heart through large arteries (using X-rays) either into the heart chambers or to the heart arteries (coronary), where blood pressure measurements can be made or a special dye (contrast) can be injected.

Cardiologists use this information to diagnose heart problems and plan for procedures including opening blocked artieries (angioplasty, heart artery stents), and valve and coronary artery bypass surgery. This dye can be seen using x-rays. This procedure does carry some risks including (but not limited to) bleeding, damage to the arteries, kidneys or veins, rarely heart attack or stroke and very rarely, effects from x-ray radiation and death. Allergic reactions can occur, usually to the contrast dye.

Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic test for cardiomyopathy. Cardiac catheterization works by inserting a catheter through blood vessels into the heart. During cardiac catheterization your doctor can take pictures of the insides of your arteries or extract a small tissue sample from the heart for further examination.

Dr. Ramin Farshi, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Healthcare providers can learn many things about a patient’s heart using this diagnostic procedure. Watch cardiologist Ramin Farshi, MD, define and discuss cardiac catheterization. 

A cardiac catheterization is an x-ray that uses dye to see how the blood flows through the heart veins. X-rays are taken to look for blockages. If a blockage is seen, then a treatment plan is developed with your doctor.

Continue Learning about Cardiovascular Diagnostic Techniques & Procedures

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.