Cardiac Cath Procedure

In the catheterization laboratory, the insertion area (usually the groin, neck, or forearm) is cleansed with a sterilizing solution, shaved, and covered with sterile drapes. A small-needle injection of a local anesthetic is used to numb the area.

Catheter engaged in the left main coronary artery
Figure 1: Catheter engaged in the left main coronary artery.

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A small incision is made and a pencil-sized plastic tube, called a sheath, is inserted into the artery (e.g., femoral artery, carotid artery) or vein. A catheter, which is usually 2 to 3 mm in diameter, is passed via the sheath through the artery to the heart, and into a coronary artery. (Figure 1)

A contrast agent (dye) is injected into the catheter to show areas of blockage and angiograms of the artery are taken. The dye often causes a "hot-flash" sensation throughout the body that lasts for 10 to 15 seconds. (Figure 2)

In some cases, a catheter is passed through the sheath to the heart's left ventricle and dye injected to show how the left ventricle is functioning. (Figure 3)

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 30 Jun 2000

Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015