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One of the most common and useful cardiovascular tests is the cardiac catheterization. This test allows your doctor to evaluate how your heart and its blood vessels are functioning. Helpful in diagnosing many heart conditions, a cardiac catheterization is often performed following a heart attack in order to identify blockages.
Once you have received a sedative through your intravenous (IV) line, the doctor will insert a catheter into a blood vessel. He will decide whether to enter through a vessel in your arm or your groin, but both locations will require only a small incision. Once the catheter is in, the physician will gently and carefully guide it through your heart and the surrounding blood vessels. Using the catheter, your doctor will inject a dye that allows him to see on an X-ray machine how the blood is flowing through your heart. This special dye helps to identify blockages or any defects in the heart's pumping action.
You will be awake for the entire procedure, and can even watch on a video monitor. Be sure to ask that a monitor be turned toward you if you would like to watch. Also, keep your physician informed as to how you are feeling through the procedure. Experiencing brief hot flashes, headaches, nausea or heart palpitations is not uncommon, but these symptoms shouldn't linger.