How do I prepare for my cardiac catheterization?

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before your procedure can improve your comfort and outcome.

You can prepare for cardiac catheterization by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Arranging for a ride home after your cardiac catheterization
  • Following instructions about eating and drinking before cardiac catheterization. This generally includes not eating or drinking for six to eight hours before your test. Your doctor will give you specific instructions about eating and drinking.
  • Leaving jewelry, metal objects, credit cards, and other valuables at home
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. This may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners. With certain types of contrast dyes, you should not take metformin (Glucophage), an oral medication for diabetes, for 48 hours before and after your angiography. Your doctor will give you specific instructions about taking your medications.

Questions to ask your doctor

Having a cardiac catheterization can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their concerns during a brief doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before your procedure and between appointments.

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointment. Common questions include:

  • Why do I need cardiac catheterization? Are there any other options for diagnosing or treating my condition?
  • How long will the procedure take? When can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the procedure? When can I return to work and other activities?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home? Will I need a ride home?
  • How should I take my medications? 
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • When and how will I get the results of my test?
  • What other tests, procedures or surgeries might I need?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my cardiac catheterization?

Knowing what to expect after cardiac catheterization can help you get back to your everyday life as soon as possible.

How will I feel after cardiac catheterization?

You may have mild drowsiness from the sedative medications after the procedure. You may have minor tenderness and bruising at the catheter incision site. You should not feel severe pain. Tell your doctor or care team if you are uncomfortable. Call your doctor after you go home if you have new pain or symptoms, or increasing discomfort at the incision site.

You will need to take it easy for the first couple of days after you go home. You will also need to avoid putting stress on the incision. This includes not straining to have a bowel movement, avoiding heavy lifting, and not participating in strenuous activities. 

You will need to keep the incision clean and dry. Follow your doctor’s instructions for diet, resting, activities, and caring for your incision site.

When can I go home?

You will recover briefly in a recovery room after cardiac catheterization. Your care team will monitor your vital signs and other critical functions for about an hour. They will then transfer you to a hospital room if you need to stay in the hospital. You may need to stay in an intensive care unit (ICU). ICUs provide 24-hour specialized monitoring and care.

Some patients may go home the same day of their cardiac catheterization. In this case, your team will monitor you for four to six hours after the procedure before you go home. You cannot drive for at least 24 hours and you will need a ride home because you may still be drowsy. Someone should stay with you for the first day.

Your doctor will decide if you can go home the same day or if you need to stay in the hospital based on certain factors. These include your general health, medical history, age, and the results of testing performed during your cardiac catheterization.