Outpatient Guide to Cardiac Catheterization

Where do I register?

Please report to registration on the Heart & Vascular Institute's first floor at your scheduled check-in time. 

Where do I park?

Patients and visitors can park in the Heart & Vascular Institute's dedicated flat parking lot off St. Sebastian Way. If you need wheelchair assistance, please park in the main hospital parking deck. 

Patient Instructions

  • Be prepared to stay at the hospital six to eight hours. The time of your arrival is not the time for your procedure. Arriving earlier does not ensure a shorter wait. The prep time is 45 minutes to one hour. It may be shorter if your physician had all the pre-procedure work-up done, including blood work, EKG, history and physical, and consent form signed for the procedure. We diligently strive to stay on schedule but a delay in the case ahead of yours or an emergency can cause increased wait time.
  • Consume no food or drink by mouth after midnight before your procedure. Follow your physician's instructions on what medications to take.
  • Bring a list of all medications you are currently taking including insulin, vitamins and herbal preparations.
  • If you are taking the medication Glucophage (Metformin) or a blood thinner (Coumadin or Warfarin), let your doctor know. You will need to stop taking these medications for several days prior to the procedure.
  • Pack a bag in case you need to stay overnight.
  • Have an adult come to the hospital with you to drive you home. Arrange for a responsible adult to help you at home for 24 hours.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Leave all jewelry and money at home.
  • You may wear your eyeglasses, hearing aids and dentures.
  • Please DO NOT bring small children.

The day of your cardiac catheterization

Please check in with the registration staff. After the registration process is finished, you will be asked to wait in the CVR waiting area. The cardiac cath lab consists of six separate labs. Each cath lab can have as many as six cases scheduled, one after the other. Patients scheduled for the first case of the day in each lab can expect their procedure to begin at the scheduled time. From time to time, however, we have delays due to emergencies. The procedure length varies from case to case depending upon what the physician needs to do to complete the procedure. We will make every effort to keep you informed if there is a change in your procedure's start time.

A CVR staff member will take you back to get prepared for the procedure. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown. The typical prep includes a complete nursing assessment with questions about your medical history and allergies. The CVR staff will also draw lab work, perform an EKG, start an IV infusion and complete a clip and prep of both groin areas. After your prep is complete, the cardiac cath lab technologists will transport you to the lab for the procedure. You will be transferred to an X-ray table. The room will feel cool since the temperature is kept low for the equipment. Once you're on the table, you will be covered with warm blankets.

You will be given medication to help you relax. You will be awake but sleepy during the procedure. A cardiac catheterization takes about one hour. If your physician proceeds to perform an angioplasty or stent, the procedure length will be extended. You and your family will be informed if the physician proceeds with angioplasty or other intervention. Family members should feel free to ask for an update at any time while you are in the cath lab.

What happens during the cardiac cath?

Once you are on the X-ray table, electrodes will be applied to your chest to monitor your heart during the procedure. The insertion site (groin area) will be cleansed with an antiseptic to help prevent infection. You will be then covered with sterile sheets and asked to keep your arms at your sides. The physician will numb the area in your groin, insert a plastic tube (catheter) in a blood vessel in your groin, inject a dye and take pictures of your coronary arteries. You will feel pressure when the tube is inserted, but not pain. If you experience any pain, let your physician know. When the dye is injected, you will feel a warm sensation for a few seconds.

When the procedure is completed, what happens next?

When the procedure is finished, you will be taken to the recovery room to have the tube removed from your groin. Pressure will be held at the puncture site for 10-20 minutes to stop any bleeding. A bandage, ice bag and/or sandbag will then be applied to the groin area until you are ready to get out of bed. You will be in bed for two to four hours. For the first hour, you will remain relatively flat. You will be offered liquids to drink and will receive a meal before you go home. You will be given a menu to select what you wish to eat. The staff will frequently monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, pulse on the affected leg and insertion site. You and you family will receive instructions on what you can or cannot do during recovery. It is important not to move around in bed to prevent the puncture site from re-bleeding. Once the recovery period is completed and you are stable, the staff will begin helping you get up to ambulate. You and your family will be given home instructions regarding care and medications.

What about the results of my catheterization?

Your physician will be able to give you preliminary findings while you are still in the cath lab, and will also speak to your family about findings, recommendations and plans when the procedure is over. Some physicians prefer to study developed films before giving you a final report. The physician could do that the same day of your procedure or call you at home in a few days.

We hope this information has given you an understanding of what to expect.
For more information, please call your physician's office
or the Cardiovascular Interventional Suites at 706/774-3186.Thank you for choosing University Hospital and our Heart & Vascular Department.
We strive to give an excellent service and hope we meet your expectations. 
Please let us know what we can do for you.