The procedure is commonly performed in patients who have symptoms of coronary artery disease (termed angina) and those patients who are actively having a heart attack and present to the hospital.
A cardiac catheterization is usually very well-tolerated without significant discomfort to the patient. The patient is required to lay flat on his/her back for the duration of the procedure. The heart cath is generally a sterile procedure, completed in the cath lab of a hospital or vascular center. Routinely, lidocaine is injected at the skin surface to numb the skin and tiny catheters are then inserted. Since there are no nerves inside the blood vessels, the patient does not feel the catheters inside the body once they have been inserted. Sedation medications typically are provided to the patient before and during the procedure. If blockages are found, the cardiologist will typically open the obstruction with a stent. A stent is a small metal pipe which is inserted into the artery to again obtain blood flow. At times, due to the significant amount of blockages, a surgical option will be discussed.