In the hospital
After the cardiac cath, you may be taken to a recovery room or returned to your hospital room. You will stay flat in bed for several hours. A nurse will monitor your vital signs, the insertion site, and circulation/sensation in the affected leg or arm.
Let your nurse know right away if you feel any chest pain or tightness, or any other pain, as well as any feelings of warmth, bleeding, or pain at the insertion site.
Bedrest may vary from 4 to 6 hours. If your doctor placed a closure device, your bedrest may be shorter.
In some cases, the sheath or introducer may be left in the insertion site. If so, you will be on bedrest until your doctor or another team member removes the sheath. After the sheath is removed, you may be given a light meal.
You may feel the urge to urinate often because of the effects of the contrast dye and increased fluids. You will need to use a bedpan or urinal while on bedrest so you don't bend the affected leg or arm.
After the period of bed rest, you may get out of bed. The nurse will help you the first time you get up, and may check your blood pressure while you are lying in bed, sitting, and standing. You should move slowly when getting up from the bed to avoid any dizziness from the long period of bedrest.
You may be given pain medicine for pain or discomfort related to the insertion site or having to lie flat and still for a prolonged period.
Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help flush the contrast dye from your body.
You may go back to your usual diet after the procedure, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
After the recovery period, you may be discharged home unless your doctor decides otherwise. In many cases, you may spend the night in the hospital for careful observation. If the cardiac cath was done on an outpatient basis and a sedative was used, you must have another person drive you home.
Once at home, you should check the insertion site for bleeding, unusual pain, swelling, and abnormal discoloration or temperature change. A small bruise is normal. If you notice a constant or large amount of blood at the site that cannot be contained with a small dressing, contact your doctor.
If your doctor used a closure device at your insertion site, you will be given instructions on how to take care of the site. There may be a small knot, or lump, under the skin at the site. This is normal. The knot should go away over a few weeks.
It will be important to keep the insertion site clean and dry. Your doctor will give you specific bathing instructions. In general, don't soak the access site in water (no bathtubs, hot tubs, or swimming) until the skin is healed at the site.
Your doctor may advise you not to participate in any strenuous activities for a few days after the procedure. He or she will tell you when it's OK to return to work and resume normal activities.
Contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
Fever or chills
Increased pain, redness, swelling, or bleeding or other drainage from the insertion site
Coolness, numbness or tingling, or other changes in the affected arm or leg
Chest pain or pressure, nausea or vomiting, profuse sweating, dizziness, or fainting
Your doctor may give you other instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.