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Interventional Radiology and Cardiac Catheterization Procedures

Cardiac catheterization, also called a heart cath, is done to examine the vessels, valves, and other parts of the heart. The doctor inserts a thin tube called a catheter into a large blood vessel and threads it to the heart where diagnostic tests are then performed.

What to Expect with Your Procedure

Depending on your procedure, your doctor may give you specific instructions for how to prepare. In general, people having interventional radiology or cardiac catheterization procedures should follow these guidelines:

  • Don’t eat anything after midnight the night before your test. Clear liquids are okay up until two hours before you arrive at the hospital.
  • Tell your doctor if you are taking blood-thinning medicines, such as warfarin, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. You may need to stop taking them before your test.
  • Bring a list of your allergies and any medicines you are taking.
  • If you have diabetes, ask how you should take your insulin or diabetes medicines.
  • Leave any jewelry at home.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure.

Most of these procedures are done while you’re awake, with a sedative to help you relax. Some procedures, such as valve repair, are done with general anesthesia. After the procedure you’ll spend time in the recovery room while the sedation or anesthesia wears off.

After the catheter is removed, a nurse or other provider will apply firm pressure to the puncture site to stop the bleeding. With some procedures, you’ll need to lie flat for several hours to allow the incision to start healing.

After you go home, try to keep your activities to a minimum. If you live alone, plan to have someone stay with you the first night. It’s usually okay to resume light activity the next day.