If you have chest pain or other signs of heart problems, your doctor might recommend a cardiac catheterization. Also called a cardiac cath or heart cath, this procedure can help your doctor diagnose and treat blocked arteries and other heart problems. Learn the facts about this common procedure, and what you can expect.\nDo I Need a Heart Cath?\nIf you have signs of a heart problem, your doctor will order tests to find out what’s causing your symptoms. Depending on your test results, you might need a catheterization, especially if you have:\n\nSymptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath, or pain or pressure in your shoulders, arms, jaw, neck, or back,\nSigns of a heart defect, a problem with your heart muscle, or abnormal heart valves\n\nYou also may need a cath if you’re scheduled for heart surgery, or if you’ve had a heart attack.\nWhat Can I Expect During and After Cardiac Catheterization?\nCatheterization happens in a hospital, in a special room called a catheterization laboratory, or cath lab. Your doctor will talk with you about what to do before your procedure, including whether or not you can take your regular medicines.\nDuring cardiac catheterization: What to expect\nDuring your procedure, you’ll be awake and, you’ll get medicine to help you relax. Depending on your condition and medical history, your doctor will choose an artery in your leg or arm to insert the catheter. Your doctor makes a small puncture in your skin, and then puts the catheter into your blood vessel. You may feel some pressure when your doctor puts the catheter in, and the insertion area might be sore afterward. Many people have bruising as well.\nYour doctor guides the catheter into your heart and uses a special dye to make your blood vessels show up on an x-ray called an angiogram. The angiogram will show if you have blocked or narrowed arteries. If you do, your doctor might perform angioplasty and stenting to open up the blockage and help your blood flow better.\nAfter cardiac catheterization: What to expect\nOnce the procedure is done, your doctor removes the catheter and puts a bandage on the puncture site. You’ll stay in the hospital for a few hours, or overnight, while you recover.\nIs Cardiac Catheterization Risky?\nCardiac catheterization is very common and rarely causes serious problems, but all medical procedures have some risks. Some cardiac cath risks can include:\n\nBleeding, infection, and pain at the catheter insertion site\nDamage to your blood vessels\nAllergic reaction to the dye that is used during cardiac angiography\n\nLess common risks can include:\n\nArrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat\nKidney damage from the dye\nBlood clots, which can cause a heart attack, stroke, or other serious problem\nLow blood pressure\nA buildup of fluid around the heart\n\nLearn more about the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute’s cardiac catheterization services or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484) to schedule an evaluation with a catheterization specialist.