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What to Expect During a Cardiac Catheterization

What Should I Expect Once in the Procedure Room?

You will be asked to lie flat on your back with your hands and arms by your sides. You will be covered with a sheet. The room can be cold - please tell the nurse or technologist if you are uncomfortable. The team in the procedure room generally includes your doctor, nurses and technologists. They will wear sterile gowns, gloves and mask. You may hear technical conversations and numbers being called out during the procedure.

Your heart's rhythm is monitored continuously during the procedure. If you do not already have them on, ECG pads will be placed on your chest. The groin area (or wrist, arm or chest) will be exposed and cleaned with an antiseptic solution. This solution is cool and may burn.

A small needle prick in the groin, wrist or arm will administer a local anesthetic.

For pacemaker, ICD or biventricular ICD, a local anesthetic will be administered on the upper chest wall. A small incison is made on the upper chest wall where the doctor will implant the pacemaker or defibrillator.

There is no cutting at the puncture site nor are there skin stitches required for a cardiac catherterization, peripheral vascular or electrophsiology study. Only a small nick is made. You may feel a burning sensation at the puncture site from the anesthetic.  You will feel pressure once the sheath, which helps deliver the lead for the device or the catheter is inserted into the artery, however, it should not be painful.

Chest discomfort may be felt in some patients when the contrast dye is injected into the arteries or when the intervention procedure (balloon angioplasty, stent insertion, etc.) takes place. The dye enables X-rays to be taken of the arteries. Some patients report that the dye causes a warm sensation or a funny taste in their mouth, which is normal.

The X-ray camera will move around you to get the best picture angle. You may be asked to take a deep breath and hold it while some of the X-ray pictures are taken.

If at any time during the procedure you have chest pain or other discomfort, tell your doctor immediately. You could experience discomfort after the intervention procedure is completed, when the doctor is closing the implant site or when the catheter or sheath is removed.

How Long Does the Procedure Take?

On average, the entire procedure from going to and returning from the procedure room is approximately one to two hours. However, if the patient requires further procedures such as angioplasty, stent insertion or biventricular ICD, the length of time may be extended beyond the two hours.