What to expect:
You will wear a hospital gown. During the procedure, you will lie on a special exam table with a large camera and several television monitors overhead.
Before the exam begins, a nurse will insert an IV into your arm for medications and fluids. You will be given a sedative to keep you comfortable, yet still awake. You may not remember the procedure.
Electrodes will be placed on your chest. The electrodes are painless and they will essentially feel like sticky patches with lightweight wires attached. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine that will chart your heart's electrical activity.
The nurse will let you know if the catheter will be inserted at your arm or your groin, then your skin will be cleansed with a special soap, and possibly shaved, at the site where the catheter will be inserted. A local anesthetic will be used to numb the catheter insertion site. Sterile drapes will be used to cover the insertion site during the procedure. A small cut is made in the skin, then the catheter will be inserted. You may feel pressure as the catheter is inserted, but you should not feel any pain.
Once the catheter is in place, the exam room lights will be dimmed and dye will be injected through the catheters to help the doctor better see the blood vessels, heart valves, and heart chambers.
The procedure generally takes about 1 hour for a diagnostic catheterization, but it will take longer if any interventional procedures are needed to treat blockages or other irregularities that are discovered while you are in the cath lab.