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What to expect during a heart catheterization

Heart beatingThe prospect of undergoing a cardiac catheterization can be scary, but the procedure is used routinely for diagnosis and treatment of various heart ailments.

A long, thin, flexible tube -- a catheter -- is put into a blood vessel in your neck, arm or groin and threaded to your heart. If you are having shortness of breath, or chest pains, "what we're really trying to do is evaluate the cause of that," says registered nurse James Fitzgerald, of Upstate Medical University's cardiac cath lab.

He and registered nurse Meg Boynton were interviewed about what to expect during a heart catheterization on Health Link on Air radio. They said the procedure usually lasts from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Patients are awake but receive medications for help relaxing.

Listen to the interview about heart catheterization.