Cardiac catheterisation and coronary angiography

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.

Coronary arteries provide a blood supply to your heart muscle. Narrowing of these can occur this is called called atheroma (fatty patches or ‘plaques’ that develop inside the lining of your artery walls). These can form over a number of years and may lead to narrowing to one or more of the arteries in your heart that can cause symptoms.

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 one-way 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 and obtain important information about the blood pressure inside your heart.

The arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. The blood is returned to the heart through your veins.

Coronary angiography provides pictures (angiograms) that can show whether the blood vessels supplying your heart muscle are narrowed or blocked. This procedure helps make the important decisions about what treatment would be best for you

For more information, the British Heart Foundation have a wealth of resources, including information in different languages and formats. Their Heart Helpline phone number is 0300 330 3311.

Heart conditions

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

  • heart attack – a serious medical emergency where the heart's blood supply is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot
  • angina – a dull, heavy or tight chest, pain that can radiate into your arm, neck, jaw or back, caused by a restriction in the heart's blood supply due to a build-up of fatty substances (atheroma) in the walls of the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood to the heart)


Coronary angiography is also used to plan and deliver treatments. For example:

  • coronary angioplasty or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) – this is a procedure to widen blocked or narrowed coronary arteries. This commonly follows on directly from the coronary angiogram during the same procedure.
  • coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) – surgery to divert blood around narrow or clogged arteries and improve blood flow to the heart
  • heart valve surgery or intervention – the valves are structures inside the heart that control blood flow within and through the organ
Last updated: 15 May 2015

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