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Cardiac catheterization - discharge

Alternate Names

Catheterization - cardiac - discharge; Heart catheterization - discharge

When You Were in the Hospital

A catheter was inserted into an artery in your groin or your arm. Then it was carefully guided up to your heart. Once it reached your heart, the catheter was placed into 2 different arteries that deliver blood to your heart. Then contrast dye was injected. The dye allowed your doctor to see any areas in your coronary arteries that were blocked.

If you had a blockage, you may have had angioplasty and a stent placed in your heart during the procedure.

What to Expect at Home

You may feel pain in your groin or arm where the catheter was placed. You may also have some bruising around and below the incision that was made to insert the catheter.

Self-care

In general, people who have angioplasty can walk around within 6 hours after the procedure. Complete recovery takes a week or less. Keep the area where the catheter was inserted dry for 24 - 48 hours. If your arm was used, recovery is usually faster.

If the doctor put the catheter in through your groin:

  • Walking short distances on a flat surface is okay. Limit going up and down stairs to around 2 times a day for the first 2 - 3 days.
  • Do NOT do yard work, drive, squat, lift heavy objects, or play sports for at least 2 days, or for the number of days your doctor tells you to wait.

If the doctor put the catheter in your arm:

  • Do NOT lift anything heavier than 10 pounds (a little more than a gallon of milk).
  • Do NOT do any heavy pushing or pulling.

For a catheter in your groin or arm:

  • Avoid sexual activity for 2 - 5 days. Ask your doctor when it will be okay to start again.
  • You should be able to return to work in 2 - 3 days if strenuous activity is not part of your job.
  • Do NOT take a bath or swim for the first week. You may take showers, but make sure the area where the catheter was inserted does not get wet for the first 24 - 48 hours.

You will need to take care of your incision.

  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you how often to change your dressing.
  • If your incision bleeds, lie down and put pressure on it for 30 minutes.

Many people take aspirin or another medicine -- such as clopidogrel (Plavix), prasugrel (Efient), or ticagrelor (Brilinta) -- after this procedure. These medicines are blood thinners, and they keep your blood from forming clots in your arteries and stent. A blood clot can lead to a heart attack. Take the medicines exactly as your doctor tells you. Do not stop taking them without talking with your doctor first.

You should eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise, and follow a healthy lifestyle. Your doctor can refer you to other health care providers who can help you learn about exercise and healthy foods that will fit into your lifestyle.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • There is bleeding at the catheter insertion site that does not stop when you apply pressure.
  • Your arm or leg below where the catheter was inserted changes color, is cool to the touch, or is numb.
  • The small incision for your catheter becomes red or painful, or yellow or green discharge is draining from it.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath that does not go away with rest.
  • Your pulse feels irregular -- it is very slow (fewer than 60 beats a minute) or very fast (over 100 to 120 beats a minute).
  • You have dizziness, fainting, or you are very tired.
  • You are coughing up blood or yellow or green mucus
  • You have problems taking any of your heart medicines.
  • You have chills or a fever over 101 °F.

References

Davidson CJ, Bonow RO. Cardiac catheterization. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 19. 

Vandvik PO, Lincoff AM, Gore JM, Gutterman DD, Sonnenberg FA, Alonso-Coello P, et al. Primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2012 Feb;141(2 Suppl):e637S-68S. 

Updated: 8/28/2012

Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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