How is a right heart catheterization done?

A right heart catheterization is done by a cardiologist or pulmonologist in a special procedure room designed for that purpose. Please let us know if you are uncomfortable lying on the table used for the procedure.

  • You will be awake during the procedure, but we will numb the area of your body where the procedure will be done. The neck area (jugular vein) is usually used, but the doctor may use a vein in your arm (radial) or groin (femoral).
  • Your doctor will make a small incision to insert a long, thin tube called a catheter. The catheter is guided to your heart and pulmonary arteries. The pressure in these areas is checked throughout the procedure.
  • Your doctor will ask you to hold your breath, bear down, cough and do other activities during the test. Please tell your procedure team if you have any pain or discomfort at any time during the test.
  • You may get nitric oxide to help the blood vessels in your lungs relax. Your doctor will see if the medication affects the blood pressure in the vessels.
  • You may get saline solution through an IV to see if fluid affects your blood pressure.
  • If you are having this procedure because you have had a heart transplant, your doctor will take a small tissue sample (biopsy) to check for signs of organ rejection and see how your new heart is working.

How long does the procedure last?

The right heart catheterization itself takes about an hour. Additional time is needed for other tests that may be done, and for you to get ready and recover from the procedure.

What happens after the procedure?

  • Most patients can go home after the procedure.
  • You will be able to drive after the procedure, but you may feel more comfortable if you have someone drive you home.
  • Do not bend down or lift, push or pull for 2 to 4 hours after the procedure.
  • You may need to go to an intensive care unit (ICU) for more tests or treatment if the pressure in your heart or lungs is very high or if your heart isn’t pumping enough blood.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/15/2018.

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