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Cardiac Catheterization Complications

In some cases, problems may occur during a cardiac catheterization. Complications are usually temporary and may include minor infections, bleeding, abnormal heartbeats, and reaction to medications or dye. There is also a possibility that more serious but rare problems may develop during the procedure. These major cardiac catheterization complications include heart or lung problems, stroke, heart attack, or kidney failure.

Cardiac Catheterization Complications: An Overview

No procedure is completely free of risks. However, cardiac catheterizations have been performed safely since 1941 with successful results and limited complications.

Minor Complications of Cardiac Catheterization

Minor complications with cardiac catheterization are, in most cases, temporary and are often easily treated by your healthcare providers.
Minor cardiac catheterization complications may include:
  • Temporary pain
  • Minor infections
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bleeding
  • Reaction to medications or dye
  • Allergic skin reaction to tape, dressing, or latex
  • Abnormal heartbeats
  • Bruising or scarring at the catheter entry site.

Major Cardiac Catheterization Complications

There are also several possible major complications that can occur. These are uncommon, but your overall health will play an important role in the complication rate of this procedure. For example, the average risk of having a heart attack during a heart catheterization is 5 out of 10,000 patients. In seriously ill patients, the risk increases to greater than 10 in 10,000 patients. In healthier patients, the risk decreases to 1 in 10,000 patients.
Major cardiac catheterization complications include, but are not limited to:
  • Serious bleeding
  • Heart or lung problems, including irregular heart rhythms and lung or heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Blood vessel, nerve, or organ damage
  • Blood clots in the legs, pelvis, or lungs
  • Failure of medical equipment
  • Reactions to medication or dye
  • Kidney failure, with possible dialysis needed
  • Other rare and unlikely events.
Depending on your individual situation, a major complication from cardiac catheterization may lead to a longer hospital stay, blood transfusion, or surgery. In rare cases, this surgery may be an immediate life-saving surgery. Other major complications, in extreme cases, may lead to permanent disability or loss of life. Loss of life with cardiac catheterization, however, only occurs in about 1 in 1,000 procedures.
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