Left heart catheterization

Left heart catheterization is the passage of a thin flexible tube (catheter) into the left side of the heart to view the area or to treat certain types of heart conditions.

How the Test is Performed

You will be given a mild sedative about 30 minutes before the procedure starts. The health care provider will place an IV into your arm so that medication can be given during the procedure.

A small surgical cut will be made in an artery in your leg or arm. The radiologist or cardiologist will insert a thin flexible tube (catheter) through the incision and carefully move it up into your heart through the aorta and aortic valve and into the left side. Moving x-ray images called fluoroscopy will help guide the catheter into the correct position.

When the catheter is in place, a contrast material ("dye") is injected through the tube. This helps the doctor get a clearer view of the structures and vessels within the heart.

The procedure may last from 1 to several hours.

How to Prepare for the Test

You will not be allowed to eat or drink for 6 - 8 hours before the test.

The procedure will take place in the hospital. You may be admitted the night before the test, but it is common to come to the hospital the morning of the procedure.

Your health care provider will explain the procedure and its risks. You must sign a consent form.

How the Test Will Feel

You will be given sedation to relax prior to the procedure, but you will be awake and able to follow instructions during the test.

You will be given local numbing medicine (anesthesia) before the catheter is inserted. You will feel some pressure as the catheter is inserted, but you should not feel any pain. You may have some discomfort due to lying still for a prolonged period of time.

Why the Test is Performed

The procedure is done to evaluate:

  • Cardiac valve disease
  • Cardiac tumors
  • Ventricular septal defects
  • Heart function and blood supply
  • Congenital heart problems
  • The need for heart surgery

The procedure may also be done to repair certain types of heart defects, open a clogged heart valve, or open obstructed arteries or bypass grafts.

The procedure can also be used to:

  • Collect blood samples from the heart
  • Determine pressure and blood flow in the heart's chambers
  • Examine the arteries of the heart.

Normal Results

A normal result means the heart's size, motion, thickness, and pressure appear to be normal.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be a sign of cardiac disease or a heart defects. This can include:

  • Aortic insufficiency
  • Aortic stenosis
  • Acute mitral regurgitation
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Enlargement of the heart
  • Heart valve disease
  • Mitral stenosis
  • Ventricular aneurysms

Risks

Complications may include:

  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Cardiac tamponade
  • Embolism from blood clots at the tip of the catheter
  • Heart attack
  • Injury to the artery
  • Infection
  • Low blood pressure
  • Reaction to the contrast material
  • Stroke

Alternative Names

Catheterization - left heart