Cardiac catheterization is performed in a cardiac catheterization lab in the hospital. A cardiac catheterization is an x-ray study of the heart to diagnose coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease and cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease). Coronary artery disease is any abnormal condition of the arteries in the heart that interferes with the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Most coronary artery disease is caused by a buildup of atheroma (fatty material) in the artery walls. This development and accumulation in the arteries is called atherosclerosis.
During cardiac catheterization, your cardiologist inserts a long, thin tube into a blood vessel in the upper leg (groin) or the arm. The tube is gently directed to the heart and to the origin of the coronary arteries. Liquid contrast containing iodine is then injected into the coronary artery while x-rays are taken. The contrast is seen in the coronary arteries as a white line and any disruption in the white line may indicate fatty buildup inside the artery walls.
During the same procedure, contrast may be injected into the heart's pumping chambers to see how well the heart muscle is contracting and to see how well the valves are working. Pressure measurements are also taken and interpreted by a computer and subsequently reviewed and analyzed by your cardiologist.
OTHER - At times, your cardiologist may recommend other types of angiograms to evaluate several arteries in your body like the aorta, renal (kidney) and carotid arteries. Your cardiologist will discuss the specific indications with you.