Cardiac catheterization, also known as heart or coronary cath, is used to detect or confirm the presence of coronary artery disease, heart valve disease or disease of the aorta. It can also be used to treat cardiac disease. In this procedure, a thin tube known as a catheter is inserted into the blood vessel via the groin area (femoral access) or the wrist area (radial access). The catheter is then guided to the heart under x-ray to view the arteries, valves, muscles and aorta. Once the catheter is in place, one or more of the following can be performed: coronary angiography, angioplasty, stent placement. Interventional cardiologists may order additional imaging procedures like intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) and fractional flow reserve (FFR).
Cardiac cath is also used to measure pressures in the four chambers of the heart, and evaluate pressures differences across heart valves. It is also used to estimate cardiac output, or the amount of blood pumped per minute by the heart, thus evaluating the functioning of the heart.