What Happens During a Heart Catheterization Procedure?


Quick Answer

During a heart catheterization, the physician makes a small incision into a large blood vessel, inserts a sheath and threads the catheter through the vessel to reach the heart, according to the American Heart Association. Physicians have the option to attach instruments that measure pressure, view the interior of the heart, or take samples of blood or tissue. The procedure takes place with the patient under sedation but still alert, with local anesthesia at the insertion location.

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Full Answer

The heart catheterization procedure takes place in an operating room with X-ray and imaging equipment, which is used during the procedure, explains Mayo Clinic. The preparation for the procedure includes placing an IV line in the hand or arm for medications and electrodes on the chest to monitor heart rate. The nurse shaves and cleans the catheter insertion site.

The sheath is a plastic straw-like tube that goes into the incision, notes the American Heart Association. The physician watches the catheter's progression through the blood vessel on a video monitor. The catheterization is sometimes used to inject dye before imaging, open a narrowed or blocked artery, or widen a narrow heart valve opening.

The catheterization typically lasts about an hour, says the American Heart Association. When all procedures are finished, the doctor removes the catheter and the sheath. A closure device is sometimes used on the incision. The nurse monitors the patient's vital signs before the patient's discharge.

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