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Cardiac catheterisation

A cardiac catheterisation will give your doctor information about your heart they cannot always get from other tests.

Cardiac catheterisation tube being prepared for a coronary angiogram procedure

What is a cardiac catheterisation?

A cardiac catheterisation, or coronary angiogram, is a special test to find out if you have any problems with the coronary arteries (blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with oxygen), and to find out how well the pumping chambers and valves in your heart are working.

A cardiac catheterisation will give your doctor information about your heart that they cannot always get from other tests.

Your doctor may be concerned that you have narrowed or blocked coronary arteries, damaged or faulty heart valves, or a weak heart muscle.

Are there any alternatives to a cardiac catheterisation?

You can have exercise tests and scans, which have fewer risks. However, they may not give your doctor enough information.

What does the procedure involve?

If appropriate, the cardiologist may offer you a sedative or painkiller.

A cardiac catheterisation usually takes about half an hour. A sheath (short, soft plastic tube used to access your artery) is usually inserted in your femoral artery. The cardiologist will insert a catheter (long, narrow plastic tube) through the sheath and along your artery to your heart. The cardiologist will inject dye into the catheter so they can take x-rays to find out exactly where your coronary arteries have narrowed.

What complications can happen?

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Haematoma
  • Infection
  • False aneurysm
  • Kidney damage
  • Allergic reaction
  • Radiation exposure
  • Blood clot
  • Change in heart rhythm
  • Blood leaking into the sac that surrounds the heart
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

It is important that you do not do any strenuous activity for about 24 hours. Your doctor may ask you to come back to the clinic to tell you the results and to discuss any treatment or follow-up you need.


A cardiac catheterisation is usually a safe and effective way of finding out about the problems you are having with your heart.

Paying for your procedure

Cardiac catheterisation costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.

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