The Heart and Vascular Clinic Nashville, TN

What Is A Diagnostic Left Heart Catheterization?

A Diagnostic Left Heart Catheterization is a procedure in which a catheter is inserted into the arm or groin area and guided to the heart by the doctor. During the procedure, the doctor will inject what is known as a “contrast dye” so that the heart’s vessels, valves, etc. and all blockages will be clearly defined on the x-rays being taken.

When Might I Need A Diagnostic Left Heart Catheterization?

A Diagnostic Left Heart Catheterization is designed to check for and to assess:

  • Heart Disease
  • Heart Strength
  • Heart Tumors or Defects
  • The Need For Procedures Like Angioplasty Or Surgery

It can also be recommended as a way of collecting blood samples or opening blocked heart valves.

If your doctor believes you are showing signs of heart disease or if you are experiencing problems that may need surgical treatment, a Diagnostic Left Heart Catheterization can help determine the proper course of action.

What Should I Expect?

The actual Diagnostic Left Heart Catheterization procedure can take anywhere from a half hour to several hours, but either way, you will be under the care of the medical staff for most of the day.

Before your procedure, you may need to have blood work done or undergo some preparatory medical tests, such as an Electrocardiogram. Your doctor will let you know if you will need to have this done prior to the day of your test, or the day of.

During the Diagnostic Left Heart Catheterization process, you will put on a gown and be hooked up to an IV. The IV will simply serve to keep you hydrated and comfortable during the procedure. You will also have electrodes placed on your body to monitor your heart’s activity throughout the procedure. Next, you will lie down and be administered a sedative and a local anesthetic, which will relax you and numb the area where the catheter is to be inserted. This area will also be thoroughly cleaned and perhaps shaved, as well. Once the anesthetic has been administered, the doctor will insert the catheter and guide it to your heart. At this point in the procedure, a “contrast dye” will be injected to make the different areas of the heart stand out (especially blockages) on the x-rays being taken.  When the x-rays are being taken, you may be asked to hold your breath to allow for a clearer image.

The procedure should not cause you any pain, so please inform your doctor if you feel any pain, discomfort, itching or any other unusual sensations.

Once sufficient x-rays are taken, the catheter will be removed, and you will rest under observation until you are cleared to go home. In some cases, patients are asked to stay overnight, so you may want to have a small bag packed with personal belongings.

How Should I Prepare For The Procedure?

To prepare for a Diagnostic Left Heart Catheterization procedure, it is important that you discuss any and all allergies, medical conditions and medications with your doctor.

You may also be asked to fast before the test.

If you have any questions about a Diagnostic Left Heart Catheterization, please ask your doctor during your next visit.


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