Cardiac catheterization is a procedure that allows your doctor to study the condition of the heart, including the muscle, valves, and arteries using a catheter and special dye.
First, the doctor chooses an artery for the catheter entry site. Most commonly, an artery in the groin area of the leg is used. However, an artery in the bend of the elbow may also be used.
Once the area is numb the doctor will insert an introducer, which is a thin plastic tube, into the artery. Through this, a guidewire is lowered into the artery and a catheter, a small flexible tube, is inserted over the wire and carefully advanced to the heart, through the aorta, and to the coronary arteries.
The catheter movement is viewed on an xray screen.
Once the catheter reaches the coronary arteries, dye is injected into them. This special dye shows up on the x-ray screen and allows the doctor to see the blockages that may be present. The doctor will repeat the injection of dye several times, looking at the arteries from many different angles.
After the arteries have been examined, the catheter will be redirected to the left ventricle. This is to test how the ventricle is contracting and if the valves are functioning properly.
The doctor will then take out the catheter and the introducer.