Diagnostic Testing

Coronary Angiography (Heart Catheterization)

Cardiac catheterization is a test to evaluate your heart and coronary arteries. During a cardiac catheterization, a dye (contrast material) is injected into the coronary arteries to trace the movement of blood through the arteries. The portion of the test involving the injection of contrast material and the tracing of blood is called coronary angiography.

To perform cardiac catheterization, a thin flexible tube called a catheter is threaded through a blood vessel in your arm or groin and into your heart. Through the catheter, your doctor can measure pressures, take blood samples, and inject contrast material into the coronary arteries or chambers of the heart. The doctor watches movement of the dye through your heart's chambers and blood vessels to see whether the coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. Arteries can become narrowed when plaque builds up inside the lining of the vessels.


The purpose of cardiac catheterization is to determine whether you have disease in your coronary arteries, and if so, pinpoint the size and location of plaque that may have built up in your coronary arteries from atherosclerosis. This is generally done to determine whether you need bypass surgery or angioplasty.


If your coronary arteries are blocked, your doctor can use the catheter to open them and restore normal blood flow to your heart. This is called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). The three common types of PCI are angioplasty, coronary stenting, and coronary atherectomy. Other tests can be done during cardiac catheterization to diagnose heart problems. Ventriculography can be done to evaluate how well the left side of your heart pumps. Also, your heart valves can be evaluated. These procedures can be done separately or in combination.

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