How Should We Prepare for a Cardiac Catheterization?
Your cardiologist will talk with you and your parents about how to prepare for
the procedure and:
Give you instructions about when you should stop eating and drinking (usually
6-8 hours before the procedure for food and 4 hours for clear liquids such as water,
apple juice, and broth).
Tell you which medicines you should continue taking.
Discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure.
What Happens During a Cardiac Catheterization?
A cardiac catheterization is done in a type of operating room called a catheterization
lab. There will be an area close by where your parents can wait until the
procedure is finished.
In a cardiac catheterization:
An intravenous (IV, into a vein) line is put in to give medicines and
through a vein. This special dye helps the cardiologist see your heart's
vessels, valves, and chambers more clearly.
A sedative is given through the IV. This lets you sleep through the procedure.
Small sticky patches (electrodes) are placed on your chest. They're attached to
an electrocardiograph (ECG) monitor, which checks your heartbeat throughout the procedure.
The area where the catheter will go in (usually the groin) is shaved (if necessary)
and cleaned. The area is sometimes numbed with an injection of medicine.
A sheath (like a tube about the size of a coffee straw) is inserted into a blood
The cardiologist gently guides a catheter through the sheath and blood vessel
to the heart. A type of X-ray called
lets the cardiologist guide the catheter to where it needs to be.
The cardiologist does the test or procedure.
The catheters and sheath are removed and the site is bandaged.
You move to the recovery area, where your parents can join you.
What Happens After Cardiac Catheterization?
You'll be watched closely for several hours after the catheterization. You must
stay lying down with that leg straight until the doctor says it's OK to get up, usually
The doctor will also talk to you and your parents about:
when you can eat and drink
continuing medicines you were on before the procedure or starting new ones
when to remove the bandage
if you can get up and move if you have a long trip home
when you can bathe
when you can return regular activities, school, and sports
What Should I Do at Home?
Take the bandage off as instructed by the cardiologist, usually the day after the
catheterization. Wetting the sticky parts of the bandage will help it come off. Then,
dry the area and put a small adhesive bandage over the place where the catheter went
Gently wash the area with soap and water at least once a day. Then, cover it with
a new adhesive bandage.
For 2–3 days, take sponge baths or short showers so that the area where the catheter
went in does not get too wet. Avoid baths, hot tubs, and swimming, and don't use any
creams, lotions, or ointments on the area.
Are There Any Risks From Cardiac Catheterization?
Cardiac catheterizations are generally safe procedures. It's normal for the area
where the catheter went in to be bruised, sore, or slightly swollen for a couple of
More serious problems are uncommon, but can happen. These include:
allergic reaction to the medicines or contrast material
long-term problems from radiation from the X-rays
When Should I Call the Doctor?
You or your parents should call your cardiologist if you have:
bleeding where the catheter went in
swelling or redness that gets worse where the catheter went in
numbness or weakness of the leg or arm where the catheter went in
Cardiac catheterizations are an important way to diagnose and treat heart problems.
Most people have no problem with the procedure. You should be back to your regular
activities within a week.