What is a Cardiac Catheterization?

A cardiac cath is an imaging procedure test that shows how that your heart is working that is how well your supplied by blood vessel and if there are any blockages in the coronary arteries of the heart. It lasts about an hour, and you don’t have to be put to sleep.

Why do I need a Cath Test?

A carth test is needed because it helps to evaluate or confirm the presence of heart disease (such as coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, or disease of the aorta), evaluate heart muscle function, and determine the need for further treatment (such as an interventional procedure or bypass surgery)

How is a Cardiac Cath done?

During a Cath, a long thin tube (catheter) is moved through a blood vessel in your arm or leg until it reaches the heart with aid of special x-ray machine. Once the tube is in place, contrast dye is put in and pictures are made of the valves, heart chambers and coronary arteries.

How do I prepare for my test and what can I expect?

You will be asked about your health, both past and present. At this time, tell your doctor of any allergies you have to foods, medicines or x-ray dye (such as that used with kidney x-rays). If you are pregnant or think you might be, tell your doctor or nurse. You will have blood tests and an ECG (electrocardiogram). A chest x-ray may also be needed. You will also need to know the names and dosage of your medications. Take your medicine bottles or a current list of your medicines with you to the hospital. Do not eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the Cath. This lowers the chance of nausea or vomiting during the test.

Any hair around the place where the catheter will be put in is clipped away and the skin scrubbed with a special soap. You will wear a hospital gown for the Cath. Before leaving your room you will be asked to go to the bathroom and to leave behind slippers, clothing and jewelry.

What happens during the test?

In the Cath lab, you will be given a gown to wear while you lie on a bed under an x-ray camera that you can watch the pictures of your cardiac cath on the monitors. The nurse will start an intravenous line in your arm so that medications and fluids can be administered through your vein during the procedure. Small pads (electrodes) are put on your chest to hook you up to an ECG machine.

Often a medicine is given to relax you. If you are allergic to x-ray dye, you are given a special medicine to reduce or prevent a reaction. The catheter may be inserted in an artery or vein in the groin or arm. You may feel burning or stinging as medicine is injected in the skin over the blood vessel. When the skin is numb, a needle is placed in the blood vessel. You may feel some pressure, but pain is not likely.

Once the tip of the needle is in place, a guide wire is moved through the needle into the artery or vein. The catheter is a long, very thin tube. It is passed over the wire to the heart without pain. Blood vessels don’t have fibers.

When the tube is in place, x-ray dye is injected. As the dye goes in, you may have a warm or hot feeling all through your body for 30seconds or less. Some people notice slight nausea or extra heartbeat, these feelings should pass quickly and not come back. Pictures are then made of the heart’s pumping chambers and the arteries that supply the heart with blood. When the x-ray pictures have been taken, the catheter is removed. The total heart Cath lasts about 1 to 1 1/2hours. You may eat and drink, as you like right after the Cath.

How Long does a Cardiac Cath last?

A cardiac cath procedure usually takes about 30 minutes (and longer if you undergo an intervention), but the preparation and recovery time add several hours.

What happens after a cardiac cath test?

If the groin artery was used, firm pressure is applied to the site for 10 to 20 minutes. You will slide onto a stretcher or bed, without bending your groin. Bed rest is needed for at least 4 to 6 hours. You must limit your movements during bed rest. A sheet may be placed over the knee of the leg used for the Cath to remind you not to bend it. The arms

and other leg may move freely. You cannot sit up or turn to the side until a tight seal forms. When needed, you must use a urinal or bedpan without bending the groin. If you have to cough or sneeze, put your fingers over the pressure bandage, and hold it firmly. You may bend your foot or wiggle your toes on the leg used for the heart Cath. You don’t have to hold the leg stiff, just straight. If an arm artery or vein was used, a few stitches may be needed in the blood vessel and skin after the catheter is removed. Do not bend the arm sharply for a number of hours and do not lift anything heavy until the soreness is gone. You may walk to the bathroom (with help at first) and around in your room as you feel like it.

Other Things to know

Tell the nurse of any discomfort in your neck, chest, jaw, arms or upper back. Also let your nurse know if you feel short of breath, weak or dizzy. These feelings do not happen often and may be relieved with medicines.

A cardiac Cath is considered a safe procedure, but any work done inside a blood vessel carries a small amount of risk of problems. Your doctor will discuss any risks that cardiac Cath might hold for you.

Cardiovascular Surgery

The Doctors Hospital Cardiac Program is a full service, multidisciplinary program that cares for public and private patients. It combines special diagnostic procedures with education, advanced patient care, and rehabilitative therapy. Physicians from all cardiac care disciplines work together at Doctors Hospital to treat heart patients, utilizing the latest medical knowledge, and drawing on the hospital’s advanced diagnostic and treatment services. Diagnostic procedures offered in the cardiac program include pediatric and adult cardiac surgery, cardiac catheterization, coronary angioplasty and stent procedures, and pacemaker insertion (temporary and permanent). All of

these procedures, except for the surgeries, are performed in our catheterization lab, which is outfitted with the latest medical equipment. In the Bahamas, cardiothoracic surgery is performed only at Doctors Hospital, which has the necessary equipment and staff to support such complex procedures.

Heart Catheterization

The Cath Lab at Doctors Hospital is a vital part of the cardiac programme. Trained diagnosticians work with doctors, nurses and other health professionals using the latest techniques. This million-dollar investment allows our physicians to insert catheters into coronary arteries to detect blockages and provide critical information for by-pass

surgery. With it, the heart and major blood vessels can be examined for any structural lesions. It is the only facility of its kind in the Bahamas.

Cardiac Testing

The cardiac programme uses the hospital’s state-of-the-art equipment for electrocardiogram testing, Holter monitoring, echocardiogram testing, and exercise stress testing, to evaluate heart patients.

Operating Suite

Three operating rooms and an eight-patient recovery area are equipped with the latest surgical and anesthesia facilities – including a purified air supply – to support a variety of specialized procedures including open-heart surgery.

Intensive Care

Critical Care Unit with specially trained doctors and nurses and sophisticated monitoring equipment is available for heart patients who need post-operative or critical care.


Medical/Surgical Unit at Doctors Hospital allows patients to recover from surgery, or to undertake medical therapy for heart disease, in a superior clinical environment. Clean, comfortable, and air condition private and semi private rooms are serviced by a skilled and caring nursing staff. All the facilities and personnel of a modern acute care hospital are available to support recovery.

Operating hours

We are always available for our patients

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