Chest Pain Cause Diagnostic Test Cardiac Catheterization

Chest pain can be caused by a number of health issues, some minor and some serious. For instance, a person with chest pain could be suffering from something as benign as heartburn or from something as severe as a heart attack. This is why it’s important to get an accurate chest pain diagnosis if you experience any type of chest pain.

One diagnostic tool for medical professionals diagnosing chest pain is cardiac catheterization.

Reasons to Use Cardiac Catheterization

In general, cardiac catheterization will only be used as a diagnostic tool when a few select conditions are suspected. Cardiac catheterization can give a doctor:

  • a way to collect blood samples from the heart
  • information about pressure and blood flow in the heart’s chambers
  • information about the blood vessels
  • information about the heart.

The test can determine whether a person has heart abnormalities or problems with the heart valves, among other conditions, including:

  • coronary artery disease
  • heart enlargement
  • pulmonary embolism
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • tetralogy of fallot
  • ventricular aneurysms
  • ventricular septal defect.

Cardiac Catheterization Procedure

Cardiac catheterization can take anywhere from one hour to several hours. The process involves inserting a catheter (a long, thin tube) into a blood vessel either in the arm, the neck or the groin. Patients may feel some discomfort from being required to be still for a long period of time.

Patients are given sedatives and local anesthetic at the site of insertion, meaning that there will not be any pain. Patients may feel pressure at the location the catheter is inserted. In some cases, contrast dye, a liquid that shows up during X-rays, will be inserted through the catheter.

Cardiac Catheterization Risks

In rare cases, patients may have allergic reactions to the contrast dye, but all medical technicians are properly trained to deal with this situation if it occurs.

Make sure your doctor knows if you:

  • are pregnant
  • are taking Viagra®
  • have any seafood allergies
  • have previously had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

Side effects from cardiac catheterization include:

  • cardiac arrhythmia
  • cardiac tamponade
  • heart attack
  • hemorrhage
  • low blood pressure
  • stroke
  • trauma to the artery.

Generally, the probability that any of these effects will occur is low. Anywhere from one in 500 to one in 1,000 people will have one of these side effects. Talk to your doctor about how likely side effects are for your particular case before undergoing the procedure.

Cardiac Catheterization Clearance

Because of the serious risks involved and the nature of the procedure, patients are required to sign a consent form for the procedure. A witness must be present for the signing of cardiac catheterization clearance.

This form should only be signed after a medical professional has completely explained the procedure and has discussed clearly and in detail what to expect and the risks involved with the procedure.

Patients undergoing cardiac catheterization may need to be admitted to a hospital the night before the procedure. Cardiac catheterization can also be done on an outpatient basis, but patients will need to go without food or water for six to eight hours before undergoing the procedure.


American Heart Association (2007). Cardiac Catheterization. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from the American Heart Association Web site:

Medline Plus (2007). Cardiac catheterization. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from the Medline Pluse Web site: