Preparing for Cardiac and Peripheral Catheterization

Preparing for Your Procedure

Cardiac and peripheral catheterizations are considered invasive procedures and there can be some risk involved. Please ask your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits so that you are fully informed. Also be certain to tell us if you are allergic to X-ray contrast or shellfish, and if you are taking aspirin, Coumadin or blood thinners. Prior to your exam, you may need to complete several routine tests, including blood tests, a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram and complete medical history and physical. Generally you may have nothing to eat or drink six to eight hours before your catheterization procedure. Talk with your doctor about taking medications the day of the procedure. If you take insulin, please get specific instructions from your physician.

State-of-the-art Imaging Equipment

The digital imaging system in the cardiovascular catheterization laboratory provides detailed views of the heart and surrounding blood vessels while minimizing radiation exposure. This advance technology gives cardiologists the optimum amount of information, enabling procedures to be performed more efficiently and with less risk for patients.

The Day of Your Procedure

  • You are encouraged to pack a small bag of comfortable clothing to wear home and any needed items in case an overnight stay is required.
  • Remember to bring your health insurance information and a list of any medications you are taking, with exact names and dosages.
  • Please leave jewelry, money and valuables at home.

When you arrive for your procedure, go directly to the registration area at the center. In most cases you will go home later that same day, unless there are unforeseen complications or you are already a patient in the hospital. You will most likely be awake but drowsy during the catheterization procedure, which usually takes less than an hour.

How Catheterization is Performed

Your procedure will take place in a specially equipped cardiovascular catheterization lab. It begins with an injection of a local anesthesia so a small tube, or sheath, can be inserted into the artery in your arm or leg without pain, though you may feel a little pressure. You will lie on a special table and the doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube, called a catheter, through the sheath into the artery. The catheter is passed toward your heart or other blood vessels. As this is performed, the doctors, nurses and technicians check the TV monitors to follow the catheter’s movement. Contrast will be injected through the catheter. Contrast helps the doctor to pinpoint problems within your arteries. You may feel a warm sensation or flushing, which will quickly subside. You may be asked to take a deep breath and hold it while the technician takes an X-ray image.

Recovering from Cardiac and Peripheral Catheterization

When the procedure is finished, the catheter and sheath will be removed and pressure will be applied to the insertion site to prevent bleeding. You will remain lying down for a few hours and asked not to move your leg. You will also need to drink fluids to flush the contrast out of your system. During this time, your doctor will return to explain your results. The nurses will check the site frequently to make sure there is no bleeding. A sealing device, to seal off the puncture in the artery, may be used. This will facilitate early ambulation and discharge from the hospital.

You may have a small bruise or lump the size of an olive under the skin at the insertion site. This should go away in a few weeks. Make arrangements to have a friend or family member drive you home. Avoid heavy lifting, and do only light activities for a few days.

Please call your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • The insertion site bleeds.
  • You feel chest pain or discomfort.
  • Your arm, leg, or foot feels numb or cold.
  • The bruising or swelling gets worse.
  • You have a fever or signs of infection.
  • You have any other unusual symptoms.

Please Remember

  • Do not eat or drink 6 to 8 hours before your procedure.
  • Make arrangements to have someone drive you home.
  • Bring your insurance card and a small overnight bag.
  • Bring a list of any medications you are taking, with exact names and dosages.
  • Leave valuables at home.
  • Tell us if you are allergic to X-ray contrast or shellfish, and if you are taking aspirin, Coumadin or blood thinners.
  • Talk with your doctor about taking medications the day of your procedure, especially if you take insulin.
  • Avoid heavy lifting and activities for a few days.
  • Call your doctor if you have a fever, any signs of infection, numbness, increased bruising, swelling, chest pain or bleeding at the insertion site.
  • Always follow your physician’s orders and recommendations.