Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization

In cardiac catheterization, your doctor uses images to guide a thin flexible tube called a catheter through a vein or artery in your arm, neck or leg into your heart. When your doctor uses catheterization techniques in a procedure to treat a heart condition, it’s called interventional cardiology.

Catheters also are used in electrophysiology (EP) studies, which diagnose and treat problems with your heart’s rhythm.

Top-Quality Facilities for Cardiac Cath

When you choose UNC Medical Center for your cardiac catheterization or electrophysiology procedure, you’ll receive treatment in our recently renovated labs. These facilities not only incorporate the latest technology, but they also were designed with extensive input from the entire medical team to provide the best and most efficient care possible. You’ll find:

  • Two dedicated cardiac cath labs and two dedicated EP labs
  • Twelve dedicated pre- and post-procedure rooms located near the labs
  • Electronic scheduling and other measures to increase efficiency and decrease your wait time
  • Calming mood lighting in some electrophysiology labs
  • FlexVision screens in every lab that give your physician easy, immediate, simultaneous access to more than 20 sources of information
  • Automated communications throughout the area that allow nurses to easily monitor all patient activity, including electrocardiogram (EKG) readings and vital signs
  • Advanced imaging technology, including X-ray systems that use lower-dose settings to reduce your radiation exposure by up 80 percent

These labs are located in NC Memorial Hospital. NC Children’s Hospital at UNC Medical Center offers a cardiac catheterization suite designed especially for pediatric heart procedures.

Reasons for Cardiac Catheterization

Your doctor may perform a cardiac cath procedure to diagnose or to treat heart conditions. It may be used to:

  • Take tissue samples (biopsy)
  • Find and open blocked or narrowed arteries
  • Find and open a narrow or blocked valve in your heart
  • Check for coronary artery disease (CAD) before performing major surgery
  • Drain fluid from the lining that surrounds your heart
  • Repair congenial heart defects, like cardiomyopathy and holes in the heart

Cardiac Catheterization: What to Expect

During your procedure, you’ll lie on an X-ray table in one of our cath labs. You’ll be given medicine to help you relax, and a local anesthetic will numb the area where the doctor inserts the catheter (usually the groin, arm or neck). You won’t feel any pain.

If you get a catheterization to check for blockages, your doctor will put dye into the catheter. The dye makes the arteries in your heart visible in X-rays.

Afterward, you’ll recover in a post-procedure room. Depending on the specific procedure, you might return home that day, or you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days.

Cardiac Services Care Card

For your convenience, you will be given a Cardiac Services Care Card for Cath or EP procedures. This information will help inform you of expectations for procedure durations as well as instructions for family members if they have to leave the waiting room.

Contact Us

Call the Heart & Vascular Center referral line at 866-862-4327 to find specialists, make an appointment or learn more about preventing heart disease.

Open Access is a new physician referral service, created by the UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care, which coordinates all admissions and transfers through a single phone call and guarantees immediate acceptance for patients. Please contact us to learn more or call 866-862-4327.

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