Diagnostic cardiac catheterization is the process of introducing hollow plastic tubes 2 to 3 mm in diameter called catheters into veins and/or arteries in the neck, leg, or arm while you're under local anesthesia. The catheters are advanced to the right and/or left sides of the heart. Once the catheters are positioned in the various heart chambers or blood vessels, the pressure of the blood in various chambers of your heart can be measured, blood samples can be taken and radiographic contrast material or dye can be injected (angiography) to allow x-ray visualization. This is necessary because the heart and blood vessels cannot be visualized by x-ray unless a contrast dye is introduced.

Diagnostic cardiac catheterization may be performed on patients with known or suspected:

  • Coronary artery disease (including heart attack)
  • Heart valve problems
  • Decreased heart function
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Elevated pressures in the heart chambers and/or great vessels
  • Abnormal cardiac output (volume of blood flowing through the heart)
  • Heart muscle inflammation, infection, or rejection (in the transplanted heart), for which catheterization is performed to obtain small pieces of tissue for microscopic examination (biopsy)


Learn more about Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization.