Norfolk County Cardiologist Association

Cardiac catheterization and angiography

A cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive test that offers clear, accurate information about the heart, the coronary arteries located on the surface of the heart and (depending on whether another test is done) the aorta. The development of cardiac catheterization was very important in the field of heart medicine. Before the 1980's, physicians had much less information before doing surgery. Cardiac catheterization now offers an excellent strategy for obtaining critical information before surgery or making a diagnosis. It is one of the most accurate tests in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease, and over a million of them are done each year.

During cardiac catheterization, a thin tube called a catheter is fed through a blood vessel to a part of the body that needs to be assessed. The catheter is inserted through a very small cut made by the physician (in the groin, arm or wrist), then guided up through the blood vessel to the heart. The physician tracks the course of the catheter by watching it on a fluoroscope, which displays the blood vessels on a viewing screen. A variety of measurements are performed when the catheter is in place, and then the catheter is removed. After some recovery time, most patients are free to go home after about six hours. Results should be available within a matter of hours.