Cardiac catheterisation is an invasive diagnostic procedure that provides important information about the structure and function of the heart.

Itusually involves taking X-ray of the heart's arteries (coronary arteries) using a technique called coronary angiography or arteriography.

The resultingimages are known as coronary angiograms or arteriograms.

Whydo I need coronary angiography?

Coronary angiography can be used tohelp diagnose heart conditions, help plan future treatments and carry out certain procedures. For example, it may be used:

  • after a heart attack where the heart's blood supply is blocked
  • to help diagnose angina where pain in the chest is caused by restricted blood supply to the heart
  • to plan interventional or surgical procedures such as a coronary angioplasty , where narrowed or blocked blood vessels are widened

Coronary angiography is also considered to be the best method of diagnosing coronary heart disease (where a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries affects the heart's blood supply).

Using X-ray images as a guide, the tip of the catheter ispassed up to the heart and coronary arteries.

A special type of dye called contrast medium is injected into the catheter and X-ray images (angiograms) are taken.

The contrast medium is visible on the angiograms, showing the blood vessels that the fluid travels through. This clearly highlights any blood vessels that are narrowed or blocked.

The procedure is usually carried outunder local anaesthetic , so you'll be awake while the procedure is carried out, but the area where the catheter is inserted will be numbed.

Any bruising may last for several weeks.

You'll usually be advised to avoid certain activities such as bathing, driving and lifting heavy objects for a day or two after the procedure.

While you're recovering, it's important to look out for signs of any problems. You should seek immediate medical attentionif swelling at the site of your wound gets worse, or ifyou experience excessive bleeding or circulation problems in your limbs.

However, as with all procedures, there are some risks, including:

  • being allergic to the contrast dye this is uncommon, but you shoulddiscuss any allergies that you have with your cardiologist (heart specialist) before having the procedure
  • bleeding under the skin where the catheter was inserted this should stop after a few days, but you should contact your GP if you're concerned about it
  • a very small risk of more serious complications , including damage to the artery in the arm or leg where the catheter was inserted, heart attack , stroke , kidney damage and, very rarely, death


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016