One of the most accurate tests in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease, cardiac catheterization is performed more than a million times each year. This minimally invasive procedure is used for diagnosing or treating a problem.

During cardiac catheterization, the physician inserts a catheter, or long, thin tube, through a very small cut in the groin, arm or wrist. Then the catheter is guided through a blood vessel into the heart. The physician tracks the course of the catheter by watching it on a fluoroscope, an x-ray machine that displays the catheter and blood vessels in real time on a screen.

Using a cardiac catheter, the physician has access to the beating heart, and a variety of measurements may be performed when the catheter is in place. Your doctor can check the heart’s internal blood pressure, assess blood supply, view coronary arteries on the surface of the heart and the aorta, and check the blood oxygen level. Then the catheter is removed.

Results should be available within a matter of hours, while the patient remains in recovery. Most cardiac catheterization patients are free to go home after about six hours.