Coronary Catheterization

Why is the doctor performing this test?

To determine if there is blockage (plaque build up or atherosclerosis) within the coronary arteries which reduces the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart.

What is the test?

A coronary catheterization (also called a cath or angiogram) is a non-surgical diagnostic test which allows your doctor to see inside your coronary (heart) arteries. While taking X-ray pictures, your doctor will guide a small tube called a catheter inside an artery to the opening of the coronary arteries and inject an X-ray dye, allowing him or her to visualize areas of narrowing in these arteries. If this plaque buildup (also called atherosclerosis) is left untreated, the heart artery can become more narrowed or crack, which can result in a heart attack.

Please view the Coronary Catheterization Animation for a detailed visual explanation of this procedure.

Patient Preparation

  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure because you need to be fasting for at least 8 hours.
  • Medications should be taken as scheduled unless special instructions are given. Do not take food or liquids with your medications. If your medications need to be taken with food/liquids, discuss your medication schedule for the testing day with your doctor.
  • Be sure to mention to the doctor or nurse if you have any allergies such as allergies to x-ray dye (contrast).
  • Make arrangements with a family member or friend to drive you home after the procedure--you probably will not be permitted to drive. Family members and friends can wait in an assigned area.
  • Pack a small bag in case your doctor decides to keep you overnight in the hospital. You may want to include a robe, slippers, toiletries, and a book / word games (something to pass the time).
  • Leave money, jewelry, and valuables at home unless a family member or friend can hold them for you during the procedure.
  • Bring a list of all medications you are currently taking. Your doctor may want to continue them while you recover from your procedure.
  • Tell your doctor if you take aspirin or a blood thinner because they may need to be stopped several days before the procedure

Where is the test performed?

In the cardiac cath lab.

How long does this test take?

Approximately 45 minutes to an hour.