Cardiac catheterisation / Coronary angiography
Cardiac catheterisation is an invasive procedure which involves having a fine hollow tube (catheter) placed into an artery or vein under local anaesthetic. The tube is then passed along the blood vessels and guided to the heart under X-ray imaging.
The test is carried out most commonly for coronary angiography, although is sometimes performed to measure blood pressures and oxygen readings in different parts of the heart.
The procedure can be carried out as a day case or as an inpatient procedure. Coronary angiography is of the tests used to diagnose the degree and severity of coronary artery heart disease.
The tip of the catheter is positioned at the opening of the coronary artery, contrast medium is then injected into the artery which produces a clear X-ray image of the very fine network of arteries which make up the blood supply in the heart muscle, any narrowing's or blockages are normally very easily detected.
Contrast medium is also injected into the main pumping chamber of the heart (left ventricle). This can sometimes cause a hot or flushing sensation which is transient and passes very quickly. The whole test can take between 10 minutes to one hour.
Coronary angiography is a relatively safe procedure, though complications such as stroke and heart attack can occur during and are estimated at approximately 1:1000. A detailed discussion of the risks versus benefits with the cardiologist will provide an individual guide.