Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic procedure that looks at the coronary arteries and the left ventricle.

What is cardiac catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic procedure that looks at the coronary arteries and the left ventricle. It is also sometimes referred to as a heart catheterization, left heart catheterization or coronary angiogram.

It is used to determine the degree of coronary artery disease in the heart and it gives the physician information on how best to treat it. Sometimes the decision is made during the procedure to proceed immediately on to a coronary angioplasty. Other treatment options could include coronary bypass surgery (open heart surgery) or treatment with medicine.

Cardiac catheterization involves threading a catheter up from an artery in the groin or wrist to the heart. Contrast (dye) is injected into the coronary arteries and the left ventricle, and images of these areas are highlighted using fluoroscopy (a type of medical imaging that uses X-rays to produce real time moving images). This test is considered the gold standard for diagnosing coronary artery disease.

Why would I need a cardiac catheterization?

People that have physical symptoms that could be related coronary artery disease often get referred for this procedure. These symptoms might include:

  • Chest pain, arm pain, neck pain or indigestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Less stamina

Generally, your doctor will have ordered other tests before you go for a cardiac catheterization. These may include:

How should I prepare for a cardiac catheterization?

You will be contacted by the triage coordinator by telephone with a date and time for your procedure. They will provide basic instructions at that time.

You will then receive written instructions from your cardiologist in the mail. This will include instructions for any change in medications and dietary restrictions prior to your procedure.

In addition, Fraser Health has put together a guide to preparing for a cardiac catheterization. The most important points to remember are:

  • Have a responsible person available to pick you up and take you home following the procedure
  • Arrange that someone will stay with you overnight for the first night at home
  • Do not drive for 24 hours after your procedure
  • Bring your prescription medications (in the original bottles) with you to the hospital


The following Fraser Health patient education materials provide information on preparing and caring for yourself after a cardiac catheterization: 

The following resources provide more information on cardiac catherization: