Right heart catheterization is an invasive test that can show how well your heart is pumping. A cardiologist inserts a thin, flexible tube into a blood vessel in your neck, groin or arm. Then they thread it through the right side of your heart into your pulmonary artery to measure blood pressure and oxygen in your heart and lungs.
Right heart catheterization is an invasive test that can show how well your heart is pumping. It measures blood pressure and oxygen in your lungs and the right side of your heart. It’s also called pulmonary artery catheterization. You may hear it referred to as a Swan-Ganz catheter.
To perform the test, your healthcare provider will use a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. They'll insert the catheter into a blood vessel in your neck, groin or arm. Then they'll thread it through the right side of your heart into your pulmonary artery, the main artery that carries blood to your lungs.
Healthcare providers use right heart catheterization to diagnose and manage many conditions, including:
Right heart catheterization and left heart catheterization have important differences.
For right heart catheterization, your healthcare provider threads the catheter through a vein into the right side of your heart. For left heart catheterization, your provider threads the catheter through an artery (femoral, brachial or axillary artery) to the left side of your heart.
Right heart catheterization measures pressure in your right atrium, right ventricle and pulmonary artery. Left heart catheterization measures pressure in your left ventricle, assesses your aorta and aortic valve, and checks your coronary arteries for blockages. The procedure is often called cardiac catheterization or coronary angiography.
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Right heart catheterization occurs in a cardiac catheterization laboratory, or “cath lab.” It’s performed by a team of professionals, usually led by an advanced heart failure cardiologist or an interventional cardiologist.
Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions on how to prepare. Instructions may include:
Just before the procedure, your healthcare provider will:
Most of the time, right heart catheterization is such a quick procedure that it doesn’t require sedation. In some cases, however, you may need an IV inserted into a vein in your arm to deliver fluids and sedative medications.
Right heart catheterization takes about an hour. But the entire process, including preparation and recovery, can take several hours.
You’ll be awake during the procedure. Your healthcare provider will:
After the procedure, your healthcare team will remove the electrodes and IV. They’ll move you into a recovery room, where your team will monitor:
Your healthcare team will monitor you for a couple of hours. Most people can go home after that, but you may need someone else to drive you home. If the test shows a severe problem, you may have to stay at the hospital for additional tests or treatments.
Throughout the procedure, tell your healthcare provider what you’re feeling. You may experience some pain from the injection to numb the area and when the catheter goes in. You may also experience:
Right heart catheterization is generally safe. But it's an invasive procedure with certain risks, including:
Your healthcare provider will likely talk to you about the results before you go home, or you’ll schedule a follow-up appointment.
Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions on how to take care of yourself after right heart catheterization. They may ask you to:
After right heart catheterization, seek medical attention if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Right heart catheterization is a test that evaluates pressures in your right atrium, right ventricle and pulmonary artery. It can help healthcare providers diagnose and manage several conditions. Your healthcare provider will explain why you need the test, how to prepare and what the results mean.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/24/2022.
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