This "procedure" consists of your cardiologist inserting a long, thin tube (catheter) into a blood vessel through a small incision in your groin. The tube is guided to your heart, where the coronary arteries begin. Dye is injected into your coronary artery
and is seen on the x-ray monitors as white lines. Where that white line is interrupted or disturbed, an area of plaque
build-up inside the wall of the artery is indicated. High speed x-ray cameras record the dye's movement during the procedure.
Dye will also be injected into your heart's pumping chambers to see how well the your heart pumps and how well your heart valves work. Pressure measurements are also taken at this time and are interpreted by your cardiologist with the aid of a computer.
After the local anesthetic
has numbed your groin, the doctor will make a small puncture and insert the catheter into your blood vessel there. You shouldn't feel any pain at all, but there will be a sense of pressure which is rather unpleasant but bearable. He will be watching the catheter's movement on the x-ray monitors. You can also watch and the clarity of the pictures is excellent. You won't feel the catheter inside you as it moves up your artery to your heart. Once the heart is reached, dye is injected through the catheter.
If you get dizzy, sick to your stomach, feel numb anywhere but your groin or if you have chest pain
, the doctor needs to know immmediately. One nurse should be focused on your face during the whole procedure and make no mistake, he has power in that lab. If you have any of these symptoms, or get upset or scared, you tell him and don't hold back - he has that job because he is no-nonsense and knows how to take charge. He will be sure the doc is aware of your problem.
Once the cath is done, the catheter will be removed. You shouldn't feel this either, except for some pressure. A nurse will apply very firm pressure over the incision in your groin for at least 10 minutes. She will really be leaning on the bandage she has over your incision, so expect this to be uncomfortable, but it should be bearable. She'll then put a large dressing over your incision and you'll be wheeled back to your hospital room. Your time in the cath lab itself should be no more than one hour.