The Night Before
Be sure to check with your physician about any medications you that take daily. He or she will advise you on what to continue to take before the procedure. It is important not to eat or drink anything after midnight except for a small sip of water with your morning medications.
Arriving at the Hospital
On the day of your procedure, you should arrive at the hospital 20 minutes before your scheduled appointment. The Schapiro Cardiac Diagnostic Center is located on the second floor of the main hospital. Go right after exiting the elevators, through the double doors, and go left down the hallway, following signs for 2 North, Schapiro Cardiac Diagnostic Center. Once you arrive on the unit, you will need to check in with the receptionist. A staff member will escort you back to the recovery area. Family members can wait in the private waiting room, or visit the Greenspring Café or The Marketplace, both located on the hospital’s main floor.
Once you are in the recovery area, you will be asked to use the restroom and change into a hospital gown. Personal belongings will be placed in a bag with your name and locked up during the procedure. For your protection, please leave jewelry and other valuables, such as money and credit cards, at home or with family members.
In the recovery area, a nurse will start an intravenous drip (IV) in your hand or arm. The IV is used for medications and fluids during the procedure. Additionally, an arterial site, many times located in the leg, will be prepped. A nurse will have the area cleaned and shaved. Removing hair decreases the risk for infection.
During the Procedure
Before going into one of the labs, a member of the medical team will discuss the procedure with you and answer any remaining questions. Once all of your questions are answered, you will be taken to the procedure room. The room will be cold; however, we will provide you with blankets to make you as comfortable as possible.
The nurse will help you on to the table and instruct you to lie on your back. At this time medication will be administered called conscious sedation, which will help you relax and become drowsy. A team member will begin to prepare the insertion site with sterile soap and a large sterile sheet will cover you to provide warmth and help maintain a sterile area.
Doctors will then numb the site for the small incision and you will feel pressure at the site when the catheter is inserted. You should not feel any pain once the catheter is in place and you will not feel it moving through your body. When the catheter is in place, a contrast dye will be injected. It is not unusual to feel a warm sensation in your chest, arms or elsewhere for a few seconds when the dye is injected.
A full left heart catheterization is usually performed in 30 to 40 minutes. When the procedure is complete, your doctor will discuss with you the results and contact your regular cardiologist, if necessary.
After Your Catheterization
After your procedure, you will return to the recovery area. Oftentimes the catheter is removed when you are in the recovery area. The removal of the catheter is not painful, however you may feel some discomfort. Once the catheter is removed, you will need to lie on your back for six hours to ensure that the incision site begins to heal properly.
If the catheterization was done through an artery in the leg, you will not be able to bend the leg at the hip, which means that you cannot sit up. The bed can be raised slightly so you are able to eat and drink. If the procedure was done through an artery in the wrist or arm, you will not be able to use the limb to eat, drink or hold anything for several hours.
A nurse will check your pulse and blood pressure often and will also check the entry site for bleeding. If you feel sudden pain or notice bleeding, let the nurse know right away.
Most cardiac catheterization patients go home within 24 hours after the procedure. Before leaving, you will be given instructions about medications, physical activity and follow-up care. You should have a family member or friend drive you home.
When You Arrive Home
Be sure to limit your activity during the first few days at home. You can move about, but do not strain or lift heavy objects.
It is common for a bruise or small bump to develop at the site of the insertion site. It should disappear within a few weeks. However, call your doctor if the insertion site begins to bleed, the bruising or swelling increases, or the leg (or arm) where the catheter was inserted feels cold or numb. Also call the doctor if the insertion site becomes painful or warm to the touch, or if you develop a temperature over 100°F.