Interventional Cardiology

What is a Cardiac Catheterization?

Cardiac Catheterization, also known as cardiac angiogram or heart catheterization, is a common, relatively painless, nonsurgical procedure performed by an interventional cardiologist.

The information provided by this procedure provides details about the heart’s function and circulation.  This information helps your doctor make a diagnosis and choose a proper treatment plan.  It can be used to:

  1. Assess the presence and severity of coronary artery disease
  2. Assess the pumping function of the heart
  3. Study the structure and function of heart valves
  4. Measure pressures and oxygen content in the chambers of the heart

How Is a Cardiac Angiogram Performed?

A thin flexible tube (catheter) is passed to your heart and coronary arteries through an artery or vein in your groin or wrist.  To make the heart’s chambers and vessels visible on x-ray, dye is injected through the tube into the coronary arteries and left heart chamber.  An x-ray camera films the heart and its vessels as they pump blood.  These x-ray images can be viewed right away so treatment decisions can be made quickly.

NOTE:  Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if you are allergic to x-ray dye (contrast) or shellfish, or if you are allergic to Aspirin, Plavix, Effient, or Brilinta.

Before Your Cardiac Catheterization

Pre-Admission Testing

Prior to your procedure, you will be required to have routine pre-admission testing performed. The hospital will call you to schedule your pre-admission testing, if required.

  • During this appointment, you will be interviewed by a nurse, who will review your medical history and medications.
  • Bring all medication bottles in a zip lock bag or a detailed list of what your medications including dosage and frequency.
  • Fasting bloodwork, EKG, and CXR may be performed at this appointment.
  • Patients who are on anti-thrombotic medications (warfarin, Pradaxa, Xarelto, Eliquis, Savaysa):  You should have been
  • given a stop date.  If not please call the office.
  • Diabetic patients: Do not take your diabetes medications or insulin the morning of pretesting. You will be permitted to take your medicine/insulin after the blood work has been drawn.
  • HCA will contact your insurance for pre-authorization.  If a referral is required, we will fax a referral request to your primary care physician with all the necessary information.

LCxThe Night Before

  • Patients who are on anti-thrombotic medications (warfarin, Pradaxa, Xarelto, Eliquis, Savaysa):  You should have been given a stop date.  If not please call the office.
  • Diabetic patients: Do not take your diabetes medications/insulin the morning of your procedure.
  • Patients taking a water pill, or diuretic: Do not take your water pill the morning of the procedure.
  • Drink plenty of water during the day before your test as you need to be well hydrated. If you are on a fluid restriction (ordered by a physician) due to a medical condition, please inform us immediately.
  • No solid food or drink after midnight, including gum or candy. You may take your usual medications with a sip of water the morning of the procedure. (Except diabetes medications or insulin, see below).
  • You CAN NOT drive yourself the day of your procedure.
  • If you develop symptoms of a cold, flu or fever or if you have been exposed to any communicable diseases (chicken pox, shingles, mumps, measles or tuberculosis) since your preadmission visit, immediately notify us.
  • If your procedure is scheduled at St. Francis Medical Center, you will receive a call from the 4B unit between 2:30-5:00 the day prior to your scheduled procedure (Mon-Fri ) to verify your arrival time: 609-599-6560.
  • Be prepared to stay overnight, as there is always a possibility you will be admitted following your procedure.  If you are discharged the same day, you MUST have someone to stay with you that night.

ALLERGIES- FOR PATIENTS WITH IVP DYE, IODINE, OR SHELLFISH ALLERGY (i.e., lobster, crab, mussels, oysters, clams, and shrimp)

  • Take Prednisone 50mg at 8am the day before your test.
  • Prednisone 50mg at 8pm the day before your test.
  • Prednisone 50mg at 8am the morning of your test.
  • In addition, take two Benadryl 25 mg tabs (available over the counter at your pharmacy) the evening before your procedure

The Day of the Cardiac Catheterization

Before Leaving for the Lab 

  • A doctor or nurse will explain the procedure, its purpose, benefits and risks.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form.
  • An IV (intravenous) line will be started in your hand or arm.
  • You will be asked to empty your bladder.

Family members and friends are not allowed in the lab.  They will be told where they can wait.

It will be cool in the lab.  You will be helped onto the table.  You will lie flat so that the x-ray machine can rotate around the upper part of your body.  If you have back problems, tell the staff so that they can help you find a more comfortable position.  ECG patches (electrodes) will be placed on your shoulders, chest arms, and legs.  These patches are hooked to equipment that monitors your heart.

Points of Insertion

Your groin or wrist will be used for the cardiac angiogram.  In some instances, the mid-arm is used.  Your doctor will decide which approach to use.  The area will be shaved and cleaned to remove any bacteria that is on the skin.
Since the cardiac angiogram is done using sterile technique, the doctors and nurses in the lab will be wearing sterile hospital gowns, hats, masks, and gloves.  You will be covered from your chest tLADo feet with a sterile sheet.  Once the sheet is placed over you, please keep your arms at your side.  If you need to move your arms, ask the nurse in the room to guide you.

Getting Ready

Your doctor will inject a small amount of medicine into your wrist or groin.  Although it will sting and burn a little, it will quickly numb the area.  This will prevent you from feeling pain at this site during the procedure.  Your leg or hand may feel numb as well.  You will feel pressure, pulling and tugging at the site where the tube is inserted.  You will be given IV pain medication and light sedation.  You will be sleepy but able to communicate with your doctor and nurse.

Placing the Catheters

The doctor will make a tiny incision in your skin.  A small hollow tube (a sheath) will be placed through the incision and into an artery in your leg, wrist or arm.  The catheters are then passed through the sheath to your heart. The blood vessels and heart don’t have nerves on their inner linings; therefore the procedure causes minimal discomfort.  If pressure and oxygen readings in your heart are needed, a sheath is placed in the vein and a long catheter is passed into the right side of your heart.  As the tubes are advanced into your heart, you may feel extra heartbeats or fluttering in your chest.  This is normal.

During the procedure, a dye that shows up on x-ray is rapidly injected into the chambers of your heart. This allows your doctor to produce a ventriculogram, or movie, of the heart as it pumps. As the dye is injected, you may experience a sensation of warmth or flushing, but this is a normal reaction, and will last only 20-30 seconds. Dye is also injected directly into your coronary arteries, which deliver oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle. Here, you may also experience transient chest discomfort while the dye is injected. The movie of the dye flowing through the coronary arteries is called a coronary arteriogram. Depending on your medical condition, the cardiologist may also need to administer certain additional drugs. Drugs are given to thin the blood (heparin), to dilate the coronary arteries and reduce the workload of the heart (nitroglycerin), to control the heart’s rhythm (antiarrhythmics), and/or to relieve angina.
About breathing

During the cath, your doctor will ask you to take a deep breath, hold your breath, or breathe normally.  Be sure to listen carefully to your doctor’s instructions.For deep breaths, breathe in slowly, as if sucking through a straw.  Do not take in short jerky breaths.  Hold the breath until you are asked to breathe normally.  A deep breath moves your diaphragm down away from your heart, giving your doctor a clearer view.  When asked to breathe normally again, gently let your breath out so that the catheters remain in place.

After The Procedure

Your treatment depends on the type of heart problems that you have.  If you have coronary artery disease here are some of the options:

  • Medicine to help reduce symptoms of chest pain (angina)
  • Bypass surgery to detour around the blockages
    Angioplasty, atherectomy, and stents: this may be performed immediately following the angiogram, or may be scheduled to be performed at a later date
  • In angioplasty, a special catheter with a small balloon at the tip is passed into a narrow portion of the artery and inflated.  This compresses the plaque against the walls of the artery.
  • The angioplasty is often followed by the placement of a “wire coil” or stent.  The stent, an implant, will remain in the artery.  Within weeks, new tissue will grow and cover the stent.

After your procedure, you will return to a room to recover.  You will be on bed rest for a period of time thereafter. The length of time you will remain on bedrest  depends on what you had done, and the size, type, and location of catheters used. If just a simple angiogram alone is performed  via the arm (no stent or angioplasty), you usually do not need to stay in bed afterwards and sometimes can go home four to six hours later.  The staff will keep you comfortable with the use of medicines and position changes.  Some patients are discharged  the same day, but if you received a stent, angioplasty, or atherectomy,  you will stay overnight.

You will be discharged the following morning if your condition remains stable. If a stent is placed, you will be started on antiplatelet medication (Plavix, Effient, or Brilinta) in addition to aspirin (unless contraindicated). These medicines help to prevent a clot from forming on the stents.  The length of time you will need to take this medication is dependent upon which type of stent was placed and can range anywhere from one month to one year to indefinitely!  You should not stop this medication unless instructed to do so by your cardiologist.

Blockage can reoccur with the stent.  This may happen within the first 3-6 months.  This blockage occurs slowly, and you may have a return of chest pain.  If this should happen, please contact your doctor soon after you notice the symptoms.

What are some possible complications?

If there is swelling or bleeding from the catheterization site, or if the extremity becomes cold, pale, or numb following discharge, you must immediately contact your physician.

The risks of cardiac catheterization include the possibility of blood clot forming that causes a stroke or heart attack, bleeding, damage or obstruction of a blood vessel, or even death. However, in medically stable patients undergoing elective cardiac catheterization for the evaluation of coronary artery or valvular heat disease, the risk of a potentially fatal result is less than 1 in 500 cases.

 

Printable Patient Instructions

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Pre-Procedure
Patient Instructions

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Discharge Instructions
Post Catheter Based Intervention

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Discharge Instructions
Post Angiogram/ Cardiac Catheterization

 

 

Follow- Up Care : Post Cardiac Catheterization/Angiogram

Dressing If the band aid was not removed in the hospital, you may remove it once you get home, unless otherwise instructed. It is less painful if you remove it while in the shower.
Bathing You may shower the day after the procedure. Gently cleanse the site with soap and water 24 hrs after the procedure. You may not take a bath, swim, or soak in a hot tub or Jacuzzi until after your office follow-up appointment.
Exercise You may resume walking at home. After 24 hours, you may walk the distance at which you are accustomed. If you have not been walking, you may start at a low level. If your procedure was performed via your radial artery (wrist): Do not hyperextend your wrist (radial artery approach) for 7 days.
Sexual Activity You may resume after 48 hours, unless advised otherwise.
Household Chores You may resume household chores (dishes/laundry). Wait 5 days before vacuuming. You may not shovel for 5 days.
Lifting Femoral artery approach (leg/groin): Do not lift over 10 pounds for the first 3 days at home.  Radial or Brachial Artery approach (wrist/arm): do not lift over 7 lbs with the affected arm for 7 days.
Driving You may resume 24 hours after discharge, unless advised otherwise.
Stairs As tolerated
Work Depends on your type of work.  Check with your Doctor.
Medications Take as directed.  Do not stop any medications unless you are instructed by your Cardiologist. Contact the office for specific instructions.
Diet Follow a low fat, low cholesterol diet. If you have any other dietary restrictions (i.e. diabetes), follow your doctor’s recommendations.
Smoking Smoking is a major risk factor for most diseases. If you smoke, you are strongly encouraged to quit. Talk to your Doctor for assistance.
Notify your Doctor if: Chest pain (angina) returns. Take Nitroglycerin as directed .  Temperature greater than 101.5. Bleeding at the puncture site. Femoral artery approach (leg/groin): leg is white, numb, cold, very painful, or if a lump appear at the incision site. Radial or Brachial Artery approach (wrist/arm): arm is white, numb, cold, very painful, or if a lump appears at the incision site.
Follow-Up Appointments Schedule and keep your appointment for 7-10 days post procedure. Your Cardiologist will check your puncture site at this appointment.

 

Follow- Up Care : Post Angioplasty, Atherectomy or Stent

Dressing If the band aid was not removed in the hospital, you may remove it once you get home, unless otherwise instructed. It is less painful if you remove it while in the shower.
Bathing You may shower the day after the procedure. Gently cleanse the site with soap and water 24 hrs after the procedure. You may not take a bath, swim, or soak in a hot tub or Jacuzzi until after your office follow-up appointment.
Exercise You may resume walking at home. After 24 hours, you may walk the distance at which you are accustomed. If you have not been walking, you may start at a low level. If your procedure was performed via your radial artery (wrist): Do not hyperextend your wrist (radial artery approach) for 7 days.
Sexual Activity You may resume after 5 days, unless advised otherwise.
Household Chores You may resume household chores (dishes/laundry). Wait 5 days before vacuuming. You may not shovel for 5 days.
Lifting Femoral artery approach (leg/groin): Do not lift over 10 pounds for the first 3 days at home. Do not lift more than 20 lbs for first 2 weeks at home. Radial or Brachial Artery approach (wrist/arm): do not lift over 7 lbs with the affected arm for 7 days.
Driving Femoral artery approach (leg/groin): You may resume 4 days after discharge, unless advised otherwise. Radial or Brachial Artery approach (wrist/arm): You may resume after 24-48 hrs, unless advised otherwise.
Stairs Femoral artery approach (leg/groin): You may resume after 24 hours, as tolerated. Radial or Brachial Artery approach (wrist/arm): As tolerated.
Work Depends on your type of work.  Check with your Doctor.
Medications Take as directed.  Do not stop any medications unless you are instructed by your Cardiologist.  Do not stop your anti-platelet medication (aspirin, Plavix, Effient, Brilinta), unless directed to do so by your cardiologist. Contact the office for specific instructions.
Diet Follow a low fat, low cholesterol diet. If you have any other dietary restrictions (i.e. diabetes), follow your doctor’s recommendations.
Smoking Smoking is a major risk factor for most diseases. If you smoke, you are strongly encouraged to quit. Talk to your Doctor for assistance.
Notify your Doctor if: Chest pain (angina) returns. Take Nitroglycerin as directed . Temperature greater than 101.5. Bleeding at the puncture site. Femoral artery approach (leg/groin): leg is white, numb, cold, very painful, or if a lump appear at the incision site. Radial or Brachial Artery approach (wrist/arm): arm is white, numb, cold, very painful, or if a lump appears at the incision site.
Follow-Up Appointments Schedule and keep your appointment for 7-10 days post procedure. Your Cardiologist will check your puncture site at this appointment.

You and Your Stent:

Learn about your angioplasty, stents, and what happens now. The information on this video can help you live a lifetime of good heart health.