Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac Catheterization, often referred to as a "cardiac cath," is a medical procedure used to diagnose and treat various cardiovascular conditions by examining the heart's blood vessels and chambers. It involves the insertion of a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel, typically in the groin or wrist, and then guiding it through the vascular system to the heart. The procedure is performed by a cardiologist in a specialized facility called a catheterization lab (or cath lab).

Here are the key components of a cardiac catheterization:

Diagnosis: Cardiac catheterization is primarily a diagnostic procedure. It is used to assess the health and function of the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle, and the heart chambers. The following diagnostic techniques can be performed during cardiac catheterization:

Coronary Angiography: A contrast dye is injected through the catheter into the coronary arteries. X-ray imaging is used to visualize the blood flow through the coronary arteries and identify any blockages, narrowing, or other abnormalities. This helps in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD).

Left Ventriculography: Contrast dye is injected into the left ventricle of the heart to assess its pumping function and detect abnormalities.


Measurement of Pressures: The catheter can measure pressures within the heart chambers to assess conditions like heart valve problems and pulmonary hypertension.

Treatment: In some cases, cardiac catheterization can be used for therapeutic purposes. These procedures may be performed during the same catheterization session, and they include:

  • Angioplasty: If a blockage or narrowing is identified during coronary angiography, a procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) or angioplasty can be performed. This involves inflating a small balloon at the tip of the catheter to widen the narrowed artery and restore blood flow. Often, a stent is placed to help keep the artery open.
  • Atherectomy: This procedure involves using a special catheter with a rotating blade or laser to remove plaque from a blocked artery.
  • Thrombectomy: If there is a clot causing a blockage, a catheter can be used to remove the clot.

Cardiac catheterization is a highly specialized and minimally invasive procedure that offers several advantages, including accurate diagnosis and the potential for immediate treatment. It is commonly used to evaluate chest pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms related to heart disease. Like any medical procedure, cardiac catheterization carries some risks, and the decision to undergo it is made on an individual basis, considering the patient's specific medical condition and the potential benefits.

After the procedure, patients typically stay in the hospital for a few hours to ensure their stability and monitor for any complications. Most individuals can return to their normal activities within a day or two, with some restrictions on physical exertion for a short period of time. The cardiologist will discuss the findings and any necessary follow-up care or treatment with the patient.

Cardiac Catheterization