Right Heart Catheterization

What you should know

Right heart catheterization is a procedure to check the pressure in your heart and lungs. It is also called a Swan-Ganz or pulmonary artery catheterization. You may need this procedure if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, or decreased oxygen in your body. You may also need this procedure if you need heart surgery or have a heart condition.


Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Risks

During the procedure, the catheter may tear a vein and cause bleeding. An air bubble may enter your lung, or your lung may collapse. You may have a heart attack. After the procedure, you may have bleeding or an infection. You may have damage to a heart valve, or a fistula (abnormal opening) may form between an artery and vein. You may have irregular heartbeats, which may cause dizziness or fainting. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. Without this procedure, your condition may get worse. These problems may become life-threatening.

Getting Ready

The week before your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.

  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.

  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.

  • You will get a contrast dye to show the parts of your heart more clearly. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. You may be given antihistamine medicine to help prevent a reaction to the dye.

  • You may need blood or urine tests before your procedure. Talk to your caregiver about these or other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location for each test.

The night before your procedure:

Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your procedure:

  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.

  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.

  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.

Treatment

What will happen:

  • An incision will be made into a vein in your arm or leg. Your surgeon will insert a catheter through the incision and use an x-ray to carefully guide the catheter to your heart. He will inject a dye so he can see the blood vessels, muscle, or valves of your heart more clearly. You may get a warm feeling or slight nausea right after the dye is injected. This is normal, and will pass quickly. Your surgeon may remove a small sample of heart tissue and send it to a lab for testing. He may also open a narrow or blocked heart valve or artery.

  • The catheter may be left in place to monitor pressure in your heart. When the catheter is removed, a caregiver will apply pressure to the incision site for at least 30 minutes to help decrease the risk of bleeding. A collagen plug or stitches may be used to close your incision wound. Caregivers will cover the incision wound with a pressure bandage, and may use a sandbag to decrease further bleeding.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Caregivers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. When your caregiver sees that you are okay, you will be taken to your hospital room. You will need to lie flat and keep your arm or leg straight for several hours. Arm or leg movement too soon can cause serious bleeding. Caregivers may ask you to drink more liquids to help flush the dye out of your body. If the catheter was in your groin and you need to cough, apply pressure over the area with your hands as directed.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your procedure.

  • You have a fever.

  • Your symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, get worse.

  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:

    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns

    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm

    • Trouble breathing

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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