St. Johns Cardiovascular St. Augustine Florida USA

St. John's Cardiovascular, P.A.

Howard A. Baker III, M.D., F.A.C.C.

St. Augustine Florida USA



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Heart Catheterization

What Is A Cardiac Catheterization?

A cardiac catheterization is an x-ray examination of the heart and its major blood vessels and valves.  Dr. Baker inserts a plastic tube into the artery and vein by way of the groin or arm and passes it through the body to the heart. 

To make the arteries show up on the film, a special contrast (x-ray dye) must be injected into the heart and coronary artery vessels through a thin, flexible tube (the catheter) while the x-rays are taken.


Why Am I Having The Exam?

Your physician has scheduled a cardiac catheterization to evaluate your heart.  The exam can help determine the cause of symptoms such as chest pain (angina), cyanosis (blue discoloration of the skin), shortness of breath, irregular heart beats, or syncope (fainting). 

Some patients do not have any of these symptoms, but have had a check-up and a stress test which may have shown a problem.  The catheterization can detect narrowed or blocked vessels that surround your heart, a bulging artery wall, abnormal heart muscle, and congenital (birth) defects.


How Do I Get Ready? 

Dr. Baker will explain the exam and its risks and ask you to sign a consent form.  He will need to know if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to iodine, seafood, x-ray dye, or other medications; and if you suffer from glaucoma or asthma. 

If so, you may receive medications (a steroid or antihistamine) before the exam to minimize any reaction to the intravenous x-ray dye.

You may eat or drink as usual on the day before your procedure.  After midnight, you probably will NOT be allowed any food or liquids until after your cardiovascular procedure.  If your procedure is later in the day, you may be permitted clear liquids (broth, bouillon, clear juices, or coffee) for breakfast. 

If you are on blood thinner or diabetic medications, please let Dr. Baker know before the procedure.


What Happens During The Test?

Although the procedure takes only 30-60 minutes, you will be in the Catheterization lab for about 1 ½ hours for preparation and monitoring.

In the Lab you’ll be helped onto a table where you will lie on your back under a large x-ray machine.  The procedure room will be cold and the table is very narrow.  You’ll see what looks like a “movie camera” that is attached to the x-ray arms, and a TV-like monitor of to the side. 

The Cath Lab staff will place adhesive (sticky) electrodes on your chest, arms and legs.  Wire connecting the electrodes to the monitor allow Dr. Baker to watch your heart rhythm during the exam.  The Cath Lab staff will also place an oxygen monitor on your finger or toe, and a blood pressure cuff on your arm.

Dr. Baker will chose a site for the insertion of the catheter, usually the groin, but sometimes  the arm. (If the arm is chosen as the cath site, a small incision may be made to obtain access to the artery). 

The staff will clean the procedure area with some antiseptic solution, and cover it with a sterile drape that will cover most of your body.  It’s important that you do not touch the drape or move once you have been covered.

Next, Dr. Baker will inject a local anesthetic (numbing medication).  You’ll feel the needle prick your skin and perhaps a burning sensation for a second or so.  Once this area is numb, Dr. Baker will insert the catheter. 

You may feel pressure or a brief, sharp pain as it goes in.  The lights in the room will be dimmed so Dr. Baker can watch and guide the catheter on the TV-like monitor.  Dr. Baker will pass the catheter through the main blood vessel. 

As the catheter is moving, you may feel a slight pressure or a fluttering sensation, but since there are no nerves inside the blood vessels, you will not feel pain.  You may feel your heart skip a few beats as the catheter is guided into your heart.

When the catheters are in position, Dr. Baker will slowly inject the contrast dye.  You may be asked to move slightly, breathe deeply, cough, or hold your breath from time to time to help move the dye through the bloodstream.  It is very important to carry out these instructions promptly. 

During one injection, you may feel a flushing sensation (hot flash) for a few seconds, but this will pass.  Tell Dr. Baker what you are feeling, especially if you are experiencing any chest pain, nausea, light-headiness, or itching, or if you have trouble breathing. 

The x-ray cameras will rotate around you to take several views of your arteries.  The cameras will come very close to your face and arms.  You’ll hear a whining noise as the camera takes a picture of the dye’s movement through the blood vessels.  Dr. Baker may ask you to hold your breath while the pictures are taken.  You can breathe again when the “whining” noise stops.  At times, you may be able to watch the TV-like monitor.

A series of x-rays will be taken.  The staff will be moving about the room and will be available to help you as needed.  The catheterization itself usually takes about 30-45 minutes.  After Dr. Baker has taken all of the pictures, you will be returned to the holding area in the Cath Lab.

In the holding/recovery area , the tubes will be removed from your cath site (groin).  Pressure will be applied to the cath site for about 15-30 minutes, or until the bleeding has stopped.  When the bleeding is stopped and there is no swelling, a dressing (bandage) may be placed over the cath site.  You will go to your room. 

While you are in the holding room, Dr. Baker may visit your family in the waiting room.  Your physician will see you later to give you a full report, after the pictures have been studied. 


What Happens Afterwards?

You’ll stay in bed 6-8 hours after the procedure.  If the catheter was inserted through an artery in the groin, keep your leg straight and lie flat in bed; the head of your bed may be elevated 30 degrees for meals. 

If an artery in your arm was used, the head of the bed can remain at 30 degrees, but keep your arms straight.  If you need to cough, strain, or sneeze, please hold pressure with your hand over your procedure site.  You may also need to use a bedpan or urinal during this period of time. 

Your nurse will frequently check the place where the catheter was inserted.  Your heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse will be checked.  Tell your nurse if you feel nauseated, if your dressing feels wet, or if you need pain medications. 

The nursing staff will let you know when you may get our of bed with help.  Ask about resuming your regular diet.  Unless told otherwise, it is very important to drink plenty of fluids to help remove the contrast (x-ray dye) from your body.  You may be admitted to the hospital based upon the outcome of this test.









Updated: 06/17/2010 04:47:15 PM

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300 Health Park Blvd. St. Augustine, Florida 32086 (904)  810-1045