Cardiology: Left and Right Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose and treat certain heart conditions. It involves threading a thin tube through a blood vessel to the heart. The tubes may be placed on the left or right side of your heart. A dye is often injected into these thin tubes to see the arteries that give blood to your heart.

Left heart catheterization
Catheterization of the left side of the heart is performed by passing a tube through the artery. It is used to assess:

  • Heart pumping functions
  • Heart pressures
  • Leaky or tight valves between the upper and bottom chambers of the heart
  • Heart blockage disease (Coronary artery disease)

Right heart catheterization
Catheterization of the right side of the heart is performed through the venous route. It helps in the assessment of the following parameters:

  • Measurement of the blood pushed out of your heart, pressure in the heart and pressure in the lung arteries
  • Measurement of right heart oxygen levels
  • Assessment of high pressure in the lungs
  • To assess the electrical problems in your heart

Procedure
This procedure is preformed through an artery or vein in the wrist or groin via the arterial route or the venous route depending upon the heart condition, anatomical considerations and the preference of your doctor. The common steps involved in cardiac catheterization are the following:

  • You are positioned on the operating table and lightly sedated to keep you comfortable.
  • The skin overlying an artery or vein is cleaned and sterilized.
  • A small incision is then made in the skin and a plastic tube is inserted into the blood vessel (artery/vein).
  • A catheter is then placed into the appropriate heart chamber under x-ray guidance.
  • After the procedure is completed, the catheter and tube are removed.
  • Firm pressure is then applied to the incision area for 5-20 minutes to prevent bleeding.

Following the procedure, you may have to stay overnight in the hospital and should rest for at least six to 24 hours.