Right Heart Catheterization
What is a right heart catheterization?
In a right heart catheterization, a doctor will place a catheter (a thin plastic tube) into one of the larger veins in either your neck (right or left side) or leg (right or left groin area). The doctor will advance it into the right side of the heart. Using the catheter, the doctor will measure pressure and blood flow in the heart and lungs. The procedure may be done alone, or with other procedures at the same time. Drugs may be given, either by IV or by inhalation. This is followed by more measurements to assess your body's response to the drugs.
This study may be done for many reasons, including to:
- Measure the amount of fluid in your blood vessels.
- Measure the pressures in your heart and lungs.
- Learn how well your heart or lungs are working.
- Help your doctors decide which drugs would be best for you.
This study is done on patients with heart failure and many other heart or lung conditions. It is performed in:
- Patients being evaluated for heart or lung transplant.
- Patients on the waiting list for a heart or lung transplant.
- Patients having a heart biopsy after their heart transplant.
- Patients with high blood pressure in the lungs.
- Patients who are short of breath for unknown reasons.
If your test is scheduled for the morning, do not eat anything after midnight the night before. Take your morning pills with a few sips of water. If you are a heart transplant patient you may be asked to skip certain pills that morning. Your coordinator will discuss this with you. If your test is after lunch, you may have a clear liquid breakfast (juice, Jell-O®, etc.). Be sure to bring all of your actual medicines with you when you come to the hospital (not just a list of them). You will be able to take them after the test if needed.
If you have diabetes or take blood thinners, you will be told how to adjust your diabetes medicines and blood thinners in the days before your test.
Before your Right Heart Catheterization
The doctor or nurse will go over the test with you. They will:
- Explain why you are having the test.
- Tell you about the risks involved.
- Discuss what vein (neck or groin area) the doctor will plan to use for the test.
- Explain if there are other options to the test.
- Answer any questions that you may have.
You will be asked to sign a consent form. Signing this form gives the doctor permission to do the test on you. Be sure you ask your questions before signing the form.
Friends and family will be shown to a waiting area while you are in the test. They will rejoin you after the test is done.
During your Right Heart Catheterization
The test lasts about 30 minutes. It is done in the UW Hospital Cardiac Catheterization Lab. You will be asked to take off your street clothes. You will put on a hospital gown. Then you will lie on an x-ray table. A nurse will clean the area (neck or groin) over the vein. The nurse will cover the rest of your body with sterile drapes. Medicines will be given through an IV to help you relax if needed. X-ray equipment is used to help the doctor place the catheter in the proper place in the body. The doctor doing the test will be wearing a gown, gloves, and mask. The doctor will numb the skin with a local anesthetic. When this is done you may feel pressure at the site, but should not feel sharp pain. The doctor will then place a large IV in your neck or groin vein. If you feel the need to move your arms or legs or to sneeze or cough during the test, please tell the staff.
This test is done by sliding a catheter through the right heart and into the lungs. You will not be able to feel any of this during the procedure. A number of blood pressure and blood flow measurements are taken in different places in the heart and lungs. These may be repeated after giving special drugs, either by IV or by inhalation. When all measurements are complete, the catheter is removed.
After the test, the large IV line is taken out. A bandage will be placed over the site. Your doctor may be able to discuss some of the results with you right away. You will then be able to return to your hospital room.
After your Right Heart Catheterization
- Take your usual medicines and return to your normal diet unless told not to by your doctor.
- Avoid strenuous activity for the rest of the day.
- Do not get the bandage wet. You may remove the bandage the next day.
- If you have bleeding at the site, hold firm pressure on the area for a few minutes with a piece of dry gauze without letting go.
- Call the UW Heart Failure/Transplant Office right away if you have bleeding that does not stop after constant pressure is held for a few minutes or if you notice shortness of breath, pain, or other symptoms you did not have before the test.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 06/07/2011
Copyright © 05/23/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6389
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