Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac Catheterization

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You may be referred for cardiac catheterization to help us determine whether you have coronary artery disease. Cardiac catheterization also helps us get information about your heart function if you have valve disease, vascular disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, or a congenital heart defect. Our goal is to help you manage your heart disease and improve your quality of life.

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About Cardiac Catheterization

In cardiac catheterization, a cardiologist inserts a small, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in your groin or wrist and guides it toward your heart. The cardiologist also injects dye into your coronary arteries to create images. Catheter-based procedures may be used to diagnose and/or treat your condition.

Our Cardiac Cath Labs
Duke has cardiac catheterization labs in all three of our hospitals. The cardiac cath labs at Duke University Hospital and Duke Regional Hospital operate 24/7 for emergencies such as heart attacks.

Catheter-Based Treatments

Angioplasty with Stenting

Also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). If coronary artery blockages are detected during cardiac catheterization, an interventional cardiologist can treat these blockages using balloon therapy and stents. The cardiologist inflates a small balloon at the tip of the catheter to open the narrowed artery. A small, cylindrical mesh tube called a stent is placed in the artery to keep it open. Some stents are coated with a drug that is released slowly to prevent further narrowing of the artery.

Carotid Stenting

In a procedure similar to angioplasty, balloons and stents are used to repair or open carotid arteries leading to the brain, lowering stroke risk.


In some people, a small device that shaves the plaque in the coronary artery may be used to open a blockage. This procedure is performed during cardiac catheterization.

Balloon Valvuloplasty

People who are not candidates for conventional aortic or mitral valve surgery for stenosis or blockage may be offered this less invasive procedure. A balloon is threaded through a catheter to your narrowed heart valve. The balloon is then inflated to open the narrowed valve.

Mitral Valve Clip

People with mitral valve regurgitation (leaking valve) who are not candidates for conventional valve surgery may be treated with a catheter-based therapy in which small clips are placed on the widened mitral valve to narrow the opening.

Endovascular Stent Graft

People with a ballooning or enlargement of blood vessels -- also called an aneurysm -- may be candidates for a catheter-based approach called an endovascular stent graft. This procedure involves strategically placing a fabric tube supported by metal mesh to reinforce the weakened or enlarged blood vessel, often the aorta.

Congenital Heart Defect Repair

Depending on the type and location of the defect, catheter-based therapies using either balloons to open narrowed vessels or valves, or closure devices to seal abnormal openings, may be performed in place of conventional open procedures.

Stem Cell Therapy

During this experimental therapy, stem cells are injected into the heart muscle. Studies suggest this procedure may improve the heart’s ability to pump blood when severe heart failure has been diagnosed.

Renal Denervation

This experimental procedure is being tested to determine its effectiveness in lowering blood pressure in people who take multiple medications and have been diagnosed with resistant hypertension. A catheter accesses the renal arteries, then a pulse of radiofrequency energy is delivered to deaden nerves that can be a main cause of hypertension when they become overactive.

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Catheter-Based Diagnostic Procedures


A catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and contrast dye is injected to create images. This may be performed on the coronary arteries (cardiac catheterization) or on other blood vessels that supply the brain, abdomen, kidneys, or extremities. An angiogram may be performed to diagnose congenital heart defects. The procedure helps your doctor determine the most effective treatment for your condition.

Heart Tissue Biopsy

A biopsy, or sample, of heart tissue may be taken during cardiac catheterization or a separate procedure and analyzed in the lab for signs of diseases that can cause congestive heart failure, including cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle) and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart). A biopsy may also be used to look for signs of rejection in a transplanted heart.

Best Heart Hospital in NC
When it comes to your heart care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital's nationally ranked cardiology and heart surgery program is ranked the best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.

Why Choose Duke

National Leaders
Our cardiac catheterization labs are training centers for interventional cardiologists from across the country, who travel here to learn from our experts about the latest techniques and how to work with new devices and therapies.

Clinical Trials Access
As a Duke patient, you may be eligible to participate in clinical trials or therapies related to your particular needs or conditions.

What to Expect

Watch this video for an introduction to the cardiac catheterization experience at Duke -- from your arrival to your post-procedure care.


Reviewed: 08/30/2018