Right Heart Catheter

What is a Right Heart Catheter?

A Right Heart Catheter is used to measure the pressures within in the righthand side of your heart and the blood vessels inside your lungs.

Why do I need a Right Heart Catheter?

Your doctor may recommend a right heart catheter if you are suspected to have increased blood pressure within the lungs (pulmonary hypertension), heart failure or valvular heart disease.

Your doctor may also repeat the test at varying intervals to see if the disease has progressed or assess how you have responded to treatment. 

What are the risks of a Right Heart Catheter

While serious complications are very unlikely, there are some risks. 

The most common risk for this procedure is bruising or swelling at the point where the catheter enters the body. This usually resolves within a couple of days.

Uncommon risks can include: 

  • Bleeding 
  • Damage to the veins, pulmonary blood vessels of the lungs or the heart itself.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmias
  • Death from this procedure is extremely rare

Your doctor will explain all of the risks in detail before you agree to the surgery – and you’re also encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns.

Your doctor will ask you to sign a consent form to agree to have the procedure.

How do I prepare for a Right Heart Catheter?

  • Asking your doctor about taking your usual medications – especially if you take medication for diabetes or blood thinning medications. 
  • Not eating – for at least four hours before your procedure begins
  • Not drinking any clear fluids for two hours beforehand – clear fluids and drinks are ones you can see through, such as water and tea without milk
  • Removing any jewellery – and putting on a hospital gown

What happens during a Right Heart Catheter?

Your right heart catheter takes place in a hospital room that looks like an operating theatre. You’ll be taken to the procedure room and be asked to lie on a narrow table. You will be awake throughout the procedure, and before it begins your doctor may offer you sedation to help you relax. 

During the procedure your doctor will:

  • Give you a local anaesthetic – to numb your wrist or groin
  • Gently insert a catheter into a vein in your neck, arm or groin – and move it inside the veins up to your heart and then into the lungs. This is done with x-rays to help guide the catheter.
  • Measure pressures at various intervals 
  • Sometimes your procedure may involve additional aspects such as the injection of medications or dye.
  • Remove the catheter – and apply pressure to the site where it was inserted
  • You will be connected to a heart monitor for the duration of your procedure. The procedure takes less than hour.

What happens after a right heart catheter?

Once your right heart catheter is finished, your nurse will apply pressure to the area, followed by a dressing. You will be moved to the recovery area or to the ward to rest. You may be tender or sore and have some bruising at the site of the procedure – this should go away after a couple of days.

You will need to organise for someone to pick you up you from the hospital afterwards and take you home. 

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