How It Is Done
This test is done in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, or "cath lab". A cardiologist will do the test.
Before the test
Be sure to empty your bladder completely just before the test.
You will be asked to lie on a flat table under a large X-ray machine. Several small pads or patches will be attached to your legs and arms. These are called electrodes. They are connected to a machine. The machine records the electrical activity of your heart during the test.
An intravenous (IV) needle will be put into a vein in one of your arms. It is used for giving you fluids or medicine during the procedure.
During the test
The area where the catheter is put in will be shaved and cleaned before the test. There are a few options for where the catheter may be inserted, such as the groin, arm, or neck.
A shot of local anesthetic will be given at the insertion site. A blood vessel is punctured by a special needle or exposed by making a small cut in the skin so that the catheter can be passed into the blood vessel. The catheter is slowly moved through the blood vessel into your body. The catheter tip is moved into different positions in the heart's vessels and chambers while the doctor watches its progress on the imaging screen. Pressures inside the heart chambers can be measured. Blood and heart tissue samples may also be removed through the catheter, if needed.
You may be asked to hold your breath or move your head slightly. This helps to give clear views of the heart and its blood vessels.
During an angiogram, a small amount of dye (contrast material) will be injected through the catheter into your coronary arteries. Pictures show the arteries as the dye moves through them.
Be sure to lie as still as you can, since moving can make the images blurry or hard to read. A health professional will help you stay comfortable and still.
After the test
The catheter will be removed from the site where it goes into your skin. Pressure may be applied for a short time to the area where the catheter was put into your blood vessel. This will help prevent bleeding. A small device may also be used to close the blood vessel. You may have a bandage or compression device on the catheter site.
After the test, you will be taken to an observation room. A health professional will keep track of your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. You will also be checked for signs of bleeding at the insertion site. The pulse, color, and temperature of the arm or leg in which the catheter was put in will also be checked. You may be given medicine for pain.
If the catheter was put in your groin, you will need to lie still and keep your leg straight for up to a few hours. After that, you can likely move around freely.
If the catheter was put in your arm, you may be able to sit up right away. But you will need to keep your arm still for at least 1 hour.
If the catheter was placed in your neck, you may be able to sit up in your bed right away.
How long the test takes
The test may take about 1 hour. But you need time to get ready for the test and time to recover. This can take a few hours.