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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.


The week before your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.
  • Ask your healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your provider 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 healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider about these or other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location for each test.

The night before your procedure:

Ask healthcare providers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your procedure:

  • Ask your healthcare provider 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 healthcare providers 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.
  • Healthcare providers 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.
  • You will be given medicine to help you relax. You will receive local anesthesia that will numb the area where the catheter will be placed. You will be awake during the procedure so that your healthcare providers can give you instructions. You will need to let them know if you have any discomfort.


What will happen:

  • Your healthcare provider will insert a catheter into an artery in your arm 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. 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.


  • 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
    • and any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat


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.

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 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.