Cardiac catheterisation (Cath Lab)
Cardiac catheterisation (cardiac cath) is a procedure done in the Cath Lab to examine how well the patient’s heart is working and to check for and clear blocks in the vessels. A thin, hollow tube called a catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel that leads to the heart to diagnose if there is any disease of the heart muscle, valves or coronary (heart) arteries.
- During the procedure, the pressure and blood flow in your heart can be measured.
- Coronary angiography (PDF) is done during cardiac catheterization. A contrast dye visible in X-rays is injected through the catheter. X-ray images show the dye as it flows through the heart arteries. This shows where arteries are blocked.
- The chances that problems will develop during cardiac cath are low.
How is it performed?
A doctor with special training performs the procedure in the cath lab with a team of nurses and technicians.
- Before the procedure, an IV line will be inserted into a vein of the patient’s arm so that a mild sedative can be injected to help them relax during the procedure.
- A local anaesthetic is given to numb the needle puncture site, which is usually in the groin area.
- The doctor will make a needle puncture through the patient’s skin and into a large blood vessel. A small, straw-sized tube called a sheath will be inserted into the vessel.
- The doctor will gently guide a catheter into the blood vessel through the sheath. A video screen will show the position of the catheter as it is threaded through the major blood vessels, all the way to the heart. The patient will not feel any pain during this procedure.
- Various instruments may be placed at the tip of the catheter. They include instruments to measure the blood pressure in each heart chamber and in blood vessels connected to the heart, view the interior of blood vessels, take blood samples from different parts of the heart or remove a tissue sample (biopsy) from inside the heart.
- When a catheter is used to inject a dye that can be seen through X-rays, the procedure is called angiography. When a catheter is used to clear a narrowed or blocked artery, the procedure is called angioplasty or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). When a catheter is used to widen a narrowed heart valve opening, the procedure is called valvuloplasty.
- Once the procedure is performed, the doctor will remove the catheter and the sheath. The patient will be taken to the recovery room for a few hours, where they will be required to lie flat and keep their legs straight. Their vital signs will be monitored during their recovery.