Cardiac Catheterization


What Is Cardiac Catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure to treat or diagnose heart (cardiac) conditions. Cardiac catheterization is done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional cardiologist.

In a cardiac catheterization, your cardiologist inserts a long, thin tube called a catheter into a blood vessel, through the groin, arm or neck. We then can use diagnostic tests to determine what is causing your heart-related symptoms.

Aurora Health Care has sophisticated cardiac cath labs throughout eastern Wisconsin. Our labs provide fast, accurate diagnosis and treatment for heart attack, blood clots and other conditions related to heart disease.

What to Expect

What to Expect During Cardiac Catheterization

In a cardiac catheterization, we will thread a catheter with a camera on the tip through a blood vessel to your heart to see how well your heart is working. We also can find out if you have blockages in the blood vessels around your heart. The procedure is sometimes called a cardiac cath, coronary angiogram or heart catheterization.

If we find a blockage in your heart vessels during your cardiac cath, we can remove it. The removal might involve coronary angioplasty (expanding the artery so blood can flow freely), stenting (leaving a tiny cage in place to hold the artery open) or both.

Cardiac Catheterization: The Procedure

Before your procedure, we will review what might happen during your procedure. Cardiac catheterization usually takes less than an hour.

It’s important to note that not everyone will receive every available option during a catheterization. Each procedure is individualized for your needs.

In general, cardiac catheterization might include some of the following steps:

  1. Preparation: Before your cardiac catheterization, we’ll talk with you about your questions or concerns and instruct you on how to get ready. For example, you’ll need to avoid eating or drinking for a certain number of hours beforehand. You’ll also need to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners.
  2. Setup: During your cardiac cath, you’ll have an IV (intravenous hydration), EKG (electrocardiograph) patches attached to your chest to monitor your heartbeat and sometimes a urinary catheter. We may give you a mild sedative to help you relax, but you’ll still be awake.
  3. Catheterization: We will insert a short, hollow plastic tube called an introducer sheath into a blood vessel in your leg or arm and then guide the catheter through it using a special X-ray machine. You’ll have a small mark but no incision.
  4. Imaging: We will inject contrast dye into the catheter. The dye will show any spots where the arteries around your heart are narrow or blocked. This is called a coronary angiogram or coronary angiography. We may also take detailed images of your artery walls. This procedure is called intra-vascular ultrasound (IVUS) or fractional flow reserve (FFR).

Learn more about cardiovascular imaging.

Recovery After Cardiac Catheterization

Your recovery process after heart catheterization will depend on how doctors cleared your arteries. Whenever possible, we send you home the same day because home is where you’ll recover most comfortably.

In general, people find that their recovery works this way:

  • In most cases, you’ll rest at the hospital for four to six hours. During this time, you’ll need to keep the leg or arm where your catheter was inserted straight so that your blood vessels can recover.
  • If you’ve had angioplasty or stenting, you may go home the same day or stay in the hospital overnight, so we can make sure all is well.
  • Before you are discharged, your doctor will give you instructions for follow-up care.


Cardiac Catheterization: Additional Procedures

If your doctors find signs of coronary artery disease, like narrow arteries or blockages, they may perform an "interventional procedure."

These additional procedures might include:

  • Balloon angioplasty: Through the site where the cardiac catheter was inserted, we thread a tiny deflated balloon through the blood vessel up to the blockage. Then we inflate the balloon, which pushes the plaque against the blood vessel walls and creates room for blood to flow freely. When we remove the balloon, the vessel stays open.
  • Stent placement: To keep the blood vessel open, we may mount a coronary stent (a small, expandable metal mesh cage) on the balloon. The stent remains inside the artery to hold it open.
  • Atherectomy: Atherectomy treats atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Atherectomy removes plaque from an artery, so that the artery can be flexible again.


Cardiac Catheterization Available Near You

To make an appointment or get more information, please call 888-649-6892.

Aurora Bay Care Medical Center
2845 Greenbrier Rd
Green Bay, WI 54311
CPR Certified
(920) 288-8000

Aurora Medical Center in Oshkosh
855 N Westhaven Dr
Oshkosh, WI 54904
(920) 456-6000

Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center
2900 W Oklahoma Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53215
CPR Certified
(414) 649-6000

Aurora Medical Center in Burlington
252 McHenry St
Burlington, WI 53105
(262) 767-6000

Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center
2629 N 7th St
Sheboygan, WI 53083
(920) 451-5000

Aurora Medical Center in Summit
36500 Aurora Dr
Summit, WI 53066
(262) 434-1000

Aurora Medical Center in Grafton
975 Port Washington Rd
Grafton, WI 53024
(262) 329-1000

Aurora Sinai Medical Center
945 N 12th St
Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 219-2000

Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha
10400 75th St
Kenosha, WI 53142
(262) 948-5600

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