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Left Heart Catheterization


A left heart catheterization is a procedure to look at your heart and its arteries. You may need this procedure if you have chest pain, heart disease, or your heart is not working as it should.


Before your procedure:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Medicines:
    • Antihistamines help prevent a reaction to the dye used during your heart catheterization.
    • A sedative is given to help you stay calm and relaxed.
    • Steroids decrease inflammation and help prevent a reaction to the contrast dye.
  • Local anesthesia is a shot of medicine put into your arm or leg. It is used to numb the area and dull the pain. You may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure.

During your procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider will insert a catheter into an artery in your arm, wrist, or leg. An x-ray will be used 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 healthcare provider 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. A stent (small tube) may be left inside your artery to hold it open.
  • The catheter may be left in place to monitor pressure in your heart. When the catheter is removed, a healthcare provider will apply pressure to the site for at least 30 minutes to help decrease the risk of bleeding. A collagen plug or other closure devices may be used to close the site. If the site is in your wrist, your healthcare provider will place a compression device around your wrist. Healthcare providers will cover the site with a pressure bandage to decrease further bleeding.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. If insertion was in your wrist, the pressure device will be around your wrist. Healthcare providers will slowly decrease pressure in the device. If insertion was in your groin, a pressure bandage will be in place. Keep your arm or leg straight. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Healthcare providers will frequently monitor your vital signs and pulses. They will also frequently check your wound for bleeding. Healthcare providers 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.


During the procedure, the catheter may tear an artery 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.


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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.