Indications for cardiac catheterization include:

  • Acute Myocardial Infarction
  • Assessment of coronary vasculature after abnormal noninvasive studies
  • Assessment of coronary artery disease in patients with confusing clinical presentations or unexplained chest pain
  • Assessment of valvular disorders and cardiomyopathy to determine the need for surgical correction
  • Medical clearance for surgical procedures
  • Evaluation of Aortic Dissection


The only true Absolute Contraindication for cardiac catheterization is patient refusal.

Here is a list of Relative Contraindications that require special attention before proceeding with cardiac catheterization.

  • Severe uncontrolled hypertension
  • Ventricular arrhythmias
  • Acute Stroke / Recent cerebrovascular accident (<1 month)
  • Severe Anemia
  • Active gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Allergy to radiographic contrast
  • Acute renal failure
  • Uncompensated congestive heart failure (patient cannot lie flat)
  • Febrile illness or untreated infection
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Anticoagulation and clotting disorders
  • Pregnancy
  • Uncooperative patient


Major complications are in bold

  • Death
  • Heart Attack
  • Lethal Arrhythmias
  • Cerebrovascular accident or Stroke
  • Bleeding
  • Perforation of a blood vessel
  • Dissection of a blood vessel
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to the contrast/dye
  • Air embolism
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Vasovagal reaction

I am reminded of what Dr. Kern would always share with us. Never have a factory worker attitude when approaching a procedure as just another cardiac cath. Be aware of what is going on with the patient and observe for warning signs of potential complications. Early intervention can be life saving.


  • Kern, M. et al (2003) The Cardiac Catheterization Handbook (4th ed.). Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby.

Click NEXT to proceed to Patient Preparation.