Cardiac catheterisation and coronary angiography - Why they're used 

Why cardiac catheterisation and coronary angiography are used 

Cardiac catheterisation and coronary angiography can provide important information about the heart and the blood vessels that surround and supply it.

This can help diagnose heart conditions, help plan future treatments and carry out certain procedures.

The heart has four chambers: the two small chambers at the top are called atria and the two larger chambers at the bottom are called ventricles. Each ventricle has two valves to control the flow of blood in and out of the ventricle.

Using cardiac catheterisation, your cardiologist (heart specialist) can tell how well your heart valves and chambers are working. The procedure can also provide important information about the blood pressure inside your heart.

Coronary angiography also gives video images (angiograms) that can show whether the blood vessels surrounding your heart are narrowed or blocked. You may need treatment if there are any narrow areas or blockages.

Diagnosing heart conditions

Coronary angiography can be used to help diagnose a number of heart conditions, including:

  • coronary heart disease (CHD) – where a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood to the heart) affects the heart's blood supply; CHD can cause heart attacks and angina
  • heart attacks – serious medical emergencies where the heart's blood supply is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot
  • angina – a dull, heavy or tight chest pain caused by a restriction in the heart's blood supply
  • congenital heart disease in children – a range of birth defects that affect the normal workings of the heart

Treating heart problems

Coronary angiography is also used before or during certain treatments. For example, it may be used if you need to have:

  • a coronary angioplasty or percutaneous coronary intervention – a procedure to widen blocked or narrowed coronary arteries
  • a coronary artery bypass graft – surgery to divert blood around narrow or clogged arteries and improve blood flow to the heart
  • heart valve surgery – an operation to repair or replace the heart valves

Page last reviewed: 04/02/2014

Next review due: 04/02/2016

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Healthy hearts

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