During the Procedure
The procedure takes place inside a Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory that may appear very similar to an operating room. You will be awake during the procedure and you will lie on your back on a movable table that is connected to an X-ray machine called a fluoroscope. You will see large video monitors in the room that the physician will use to see the images of your heart and blood vessels. If you wish to watch the procedure, you may ask that the video screen be turned so that you may view it.
Before the procedure begins, an intravenous (IV) line will be inserted into your arm. This line will be used to administer a sedative that will help you to relax during the procedure. You will also be hooked to a device to measure your heart rate. The doctor will decide whether to insert the catheter into a blood vessel in the groin or arm. The selected area will be shaved, cleaned and prepared with an antibacterial solution.
Once the preparations have been completed, the doctor will make a very small incision and insert first a special sheath and then the catheter into your blood vessel. Watching the progress of the catheter on the video monitor, the physician will carefully guide the catheter to areas in and around your heart. There, blood pressure will be monitored and blood samples may be taken. To help in visualizing the heart function and to look for blockages in the arteries leading to the heart, the physician will inject a special dye through the catheter. This dye shows up on the X-ray machine and allows the doctor to watch the dye flow through your arteries and heart. When the dye is injected, you will normally feel warm and flushed for a brief period. You should tell the doctor about any discomfort, nausea or other symptoms you experience during the procedure.
After the catheter is removed, the doctor will decide whether to temporarily leave the sheath in place inside your blood vessel or to immediately remove it and close the incision at the insertion point. After the incision is closed, a bandage will be applied to the area. Normally, the entire procedure will take an hour or less to complete.