Cardiac Catheterization


What is a cardiac catheterization?

A cardiac catheterization is a procedure which makes an xray of the arteries of your heart. This xray is called an angiogram. In a catheterization, a needle is put into the artery of your leg (or your wrist). Through the needle, a wire and then a plastic tube (called a catheter) is put into the artery. The catheter is then brought to the arteries of your heart (called the coronary artery). Dye is injected into the arteries of the heart, and an xray is taken to see if there are blockages in the arteries of the heart.


Who should have a cardiac catheterization?

There are many reasons to undergo a catheterization. One of the main reasons is to see if there are blockages in the arteries of the heart and how much blockage there may be. Individuals who have partial blockages in their coronary arteries may experience chest discomfort which is frequently called “angina”. When there is an abrupt and complete blockage of the coronary artery, that is frequently called a “heart attack “. Patients will often receive a recommendation to undergo a catheterization after a stress test is done which suggests that an individual may have coronary artery disease or blockages in the arteries of the heart.


What can I expect at the time of my catherterization?

The procedure is performed at Tampa General Hospital or Pepin Hospital. An individual undergoing a catheterization should not have anything to eat that morning. Instructions should be given about whether to take medications that morning. If you have an allergy to contrast agents, iodine, or shellfish, you should notify the physician. After you sign consent papers, the procedure will be performed in a catheterization laboratory where ECGs will be performed, and the area where the catheters are inserted will be cleaned, prepared, and draped. You will receive a little local anesthetic (medication for pain) to numb the area where the catheters will be placed.


Should I undergo cardiac catheterization in the wrist or in the leg?

The procedure can be performed in either the leg artery (femoral artery) or the wrist artery (radial artery.) In past years, the procedure was most often performed in the leg or femoral artery, but the procedure can be performed safely and easily in the small artery of the wrist, the radial artery in most patients. The benefit of using the radial artery is that patients are more comfortable during the procedure, and there is less bleeding risk because of smaller equipment and artery size. Also, the recovery time after a catheterization in the wrist is shorter. Patients can usually sit up and walk soon after the procedure.

The University of South Florida is one of the few programs in the state of Florida that perform the majority of its outpatient procedures through the radial artery.


What are the complications during this procedure?

The potential complications include but are not limited to are bleeding, infection, kidney problems, blood vessel injury, stroke, heart attack, urgent coronary artery bypass surgery, or even death. The serious risk of complications are very low, risk of death is less than 1/1000 patients and risk of heart attack or stroke is less than 1/500 patients. If the angioplasty stent procedure fails, sometimes emergent coronary artery bypass is recommended. This occurs in less than 1% of cases.

Where else can I find information? Additional information can be found at www.cardiosmart.org