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Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization machine

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose heart conditions and involves passing a long, thin flexible tube (catheter) through an artery or vein in your groin, neck or arm and to your heart. Garden City Hospital has two, state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs for this procedure.

What to Expect During the Procedure

Cardiac catheterization is done in a special operating room called a catheterization lab. Garden City Hospital has two state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs to perform this procedure. The catheterization lab has special X-ray and imaging machines that normal operating rooms do not have.

Cardiac catheterization is usually performed while you're awake but sedated. An IV line will be inserted in your hand or arm and will be used to give you any additional medications you might need during your procedure. You will also have monitors (electrodes) placed on your chest to check your heartbeat during the test.

Just before the procedure, a nurse or technician may shave the hair from the site where the catheter will be inserted. Before the catheter is inserted in your artery, you'll be given a shot of anesthetic to numb the area. You may feel a quick, stinging pain before the numbness sets in.

After you feel numb, the catheter will be inserted. A small cut is made, usually in your leg, to access an artery. A plastic sheath will be inserted in the cut to allow your doctor to insert the catheter.

What happens next depends on why you are having a cardiac catheterization:

  • Coronary Angiogram: If you're having this test to check for blockages in the arteries leading to your heart, a dye will be injected through the catheter, and X-ray images of your heart arteries will be taken. In a coronary angiogram, the catheter is usually placed in the artery in your groin or wrist.
  • Right Heart Catheterization: This procedure checks the pressure and blood flow on the right side of your heart. For this procedure, the catheter is inserted in the artery in your neck or groin. The catheter has special sensors in it to measure the pressure and blood flow in your heart.
  • Heart Biopsy: If your doctor is taking a sample of heart tissue (biopsy), the catheter will usually be placed in the artery in your neck. A catheter with a small, jaw-like tip is used to cut a small sample of tissue from your heart. You may feel pressure as this catheter is being used, but you likely won't feel the actual tissue being snipped.
  • Balloon Angioplasty (With or Without Stenting): This procedure is used to open a narrowed artery in or near your heart. The catheter will likely be inserted in the artery in your groin for this procedure. A long, flexible catheter will be threaded through your arteries to the narrowed artery. Then, a smaller balloon catheter will be led through the flexible catheter and inflated at the narrowed area to open it. In many cases, your doctor will also place a mesh coil called a stent at the narrowed portion to help keep the artery open.
  • Repair of Heart Defects: If your doctor is closing a hole in your heart, such as an atrial septal defect or patent foramen ovale, you will probably have catheters inserted in both the arteries and veins of the groin and neck. A device is then inserted into your heart to close the hole.
  • Balloon Valvuloplasty: This procedure is done to open up narrowed heart valves. The placement of your catheters will depend on which valve problem you have. A catheter is threaded across the valve. A balloon is then blown up to make the valve open more easily. You may feel pressure as the catheters are inserted into your body, but you shouldn't feel discomfort from the balloon treatment itself.
  • Valve Replacement: This procedure is similar to balloon valvuloplasty, except that an artificial valve will be implanted in your heart to replace a leaky or narrowed heart valve. Although you'll be sedated, you'll be awake during the procedure so that you can follow instructions. Throughout the procedure, you may be asked to take deep breaths, hold your breath, cough, or place your arms in various positions. Your table may be tilted at times. Threading the catheter should not be painful, and you will not feel it moving through your body. Let your health care team know if you have any discomfort.

After the Procedure

It usually takes several hours to recover from a cardiac catheterization. After your procedure is finished, you'll be taken to a comfortable recovery room to rest while the anesthesia wears off. This usually takes about an hour. The plastic sheath inserted in your groin, neck or arm will be removed soon after the procedure unless you need to stay on blood-thinning medication.

After you leave the recovery room, you'll go to a regular hospital or outpatient room. After your catheter is removed, the technician or nurse who has removed your sheath will apply pressure to the insertion sites. You'll need to lie flat for one to six hours after the procedure to avoid serious bleeding and to allow the artery to heal.

You will be able to eat and drink after the procedure. The length of your stay in the hospital will depend on your condition. You may be able to go home the same day as your catheterization, or you may need to stay overnight or longer. Longer stays are common if you have a more serious procedure immediately after your catheterization, such as angioplasty and stent placement.

Radial Lounge

Radial Lounge

Garden City Hospital’s cardiac recovery area is complete with a radial lounge for faster, more comfortable catheterization treatment. Cardiac catheterization can be performed by inserting a catheter in the radial or wrist artery. With this wrist access, a pressure wristband can be applied to prevent the artery from bleeding. Patients are minimally sedated and can walk, use the restroom and eat. The recovery process is no longer than four hours and is more comfortable than a traditional catheterization procedure recovery. Garden City Hospital’s radial lounge is complete with recliners for a quick, comfortable recovery.