What to Expect Before and After a Heart Catheterization

 Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Heart catheterization is a type of medical procedure used to diagnose and treat a variety of heart ailments. During the procedure, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in the arm, groin, or neck. The catheter is threaded to the heart. Although heart catheterization isn’t painful and the patient is awake and sedated during the procedure, soreness will be felt in the blood vessel when the catheter is inserted.

Through heart catheterization, the doctor can analyze the heart chambers, evaluate the status of a patient’s heart, and diagnose coronary artery diseases including the following:

Coronary Angiogram: Checking for artery blockage leading to the heart.
Right Heart Catheterization: To check blood flow and pressure to the right side of the heart.
Heart Biopsy: A heart tissue sample is taken from the heart for further tests.
Balloon Angioplasty (with or without stenting): Severely narrowed arteries are opened through an inflatable catheter.

What to Expect Before Heart Catheterization

Before the procedure, your doctor will give you a complete assessment of your health. Your doctor will explain how the procedure is done and once everything is in order, you will be wheeled into a special operating room with X-ray and imaging machines, as well as other equipment that average operating rooms do not have.

You will also be sedated intravenously and any medication will pass through IV as well. Electrodes will be placed on your chest to check your heartbeat throughout the heart catheterization.

The nurse or technician will shave the site where the catheter will be inserted. A shot of anesthesia is given on the site to numb it. After the area is numb, a small cut is made on the arm, groin, or neck to access the artery. A plastic sheath is inserted into the cut to allow the catheter to be inserted.

Once the catheter is inserted and your doctor can analyze your heart, he will give you options on how to proceed with the next step of the procedure.

What to Expect After Heart Catheterization

Once the procedure is done, you will be wheeled into a special care area where you will stay and rest for several hours overnight. During this time, you will be advised to limit you movement so bleeding will not occur on the site where the catheter was inserted.

Your nurse will also check your blood pressure and heart rate regularly. You can expect a small bruise to develop on the area where the catheter was inserted and the affected area will be sore or tender for a week or so.

We recommend talking to your doctor to find out what sort of activities you have to avoid in order to hasten the healing period. Contact your doctor immediately if you encounter profuse bleeding at the insertion site, especially if the bleeding can’t be stopped with bandages. Always check the insertion area for infection. If swelling, pus, redness, or other signs of infection starts to develop on the area, contact your doctor immediately for treatment.