Paul A. Jones, M.D.
Chair of Cardiovascular Services

To learn more Mercy’s comprehensive heart & vascular program, please call 312.567.2600.

Cardiac Catheterization

Each year in the United States nearly 600,000 individuals lose their lives to heart disease, and 40,000 Illinoisans die of cardiovascular disease. With one in four deaths (25 percent) attributable to heart disease, it’s the leading cause of mortality in our country.

However, the dedicated team of innovators at the Mercy Heart & Vascular Center are committed to reduce those statistics, and play an integral role in helping you and your loved ones lead a longer, healthier life. Our pioneering use of modern diagnostic technology and non-invasive screening enables detection of heart disease in early stages, while sophisticated minimally invasive treatments save patients lengthy and grueling recoveries. One such procedure in Mercy’s Minimally Invasive Surgery Program is cardiac catheterization.


Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive medical procedure used in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disorders. Among other things, a cardiac catheterization procedure examines the blood flow in the coronary arteries and chambers of the heart and checks the blood pressure in the heart.

Cardiac catheterization is used to evaluate various cardiac conditions including:

  • Assess heart muscle function.
  • Confirm or evaluate diseases of the heart valves, aorta or coronary artery.
  • Evaluate congenital heart problems in children.
  • Extract a sample (biopsy) of heart tissue.
  • Measure the blood pressure and oxygen in the heart.
  • Determine if any blood vessels are narrowed or blocked.
  • Evaluate the need for additional treatment or surgery.

Other treatments, such as closing small holes in the heart, removing blood clots, repairing leaky or narrow heart valves, performing angioplasties, placing stents, and treating some heart arrhythmias can also be conducted with cardiac catheterization.


During cardiac catheterization, a catheter (which is a flexible, long, narrow tube) is inserted into the blood vessel through the skin. With the assistance of x-ray imaging, the catheter is threaded through the blood vessel to the coronary artery and heart. Once the catheter has reached its target, your doctor can perform diagnostic cardiac tests and treatment.

In some cases, a special dye, referred to as contrast, is used in the catheter. The dye flows through your blood vessels to your heart. The contrast makes your coronary arteries visible to determine if plaque has built up in your arteries causing narrowing or a blockage.

Because cardiac catheterization is conducted through one small cut (or puncture hole) in the skin, it is a minimally invasive procedure. Typically the catheter is inserted in the groin, but may be placed in a vein in the neck or arm. Most patients do not experience pain when having a cardiac catheterization procedure, and the risk of side effects or complications is low. You are awake during a cardiac catheterization.

While the cardiac catheterization procedure typically takes less than 30 minutes, the preparation and recovery room time make the procedure last four to eight hours.

Mercy’s Leading Minimally Invasive Surgery Program

Mercy has long been a pioneer and leader in minimally invasive solutions to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disorders. As a testament to our dedication to the minimally invasive approach, Mercy has an entire department committed to minimally invasive procedures. For minimally invasive procedures, such as cardiac catheterization, in a patient friendly atmosphere, consult the forward-looking experts at Mercy Heart & Vascular Center.

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