A catheterization laboratory or cath lab is an examination room in a hospital or clinic with diagnostic imaging equipment used to support the catheterization outpatient procedure. The actual left heart cath procedure usually takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes. An additional 10 to 15 minutes are needed if the patient requires right heart catheterization. Approximately three to four hours after the procedure, the patient gets out of bed. The patient is usually discharged within six hours of the procedure unless additional treatment or procedures are required. A little soreness and a Band-Aid are usually the only traces of the procedure. Some patients may display a bruise at the site.
To begin, a catheter is inserted into a large artery, and various wires and devices can be inserted through the body via the catheter which is inside the artery. In the majority of cases, catheters are introduced through a tiny needle hole in the right groin. In such cases both groins are shaved in preparation for the procedure, on the outside chance that the other groin may have to be used. The artery most used is the femoral artery. However, the femoral artery is associated with local complication in up to 3% of patients and hence, more interventional physicians are moving towards the radial (wrist) artery, as an alternative site. Disadvantages of the radial artery include small vessel caliber and a different "learning curve" for physicians used to the femoral access.
Intravenous medications are used to relax the patient. The patient is able to ask questions and follow the requests of the cardiologists, nurses and Techs. This can include having to take a deep breath or let the cath team know if there is any discomfort being induced by the procedure. The goal is to keep the patient extremely comfortable and relaxed without being put to sleep. This process is known as "conscious sedation". When the anesthesia wears off, the patient may experience soreness.
Most catheterization laboratories are "single plane" facilities, those that have a single X-ray generator source and an image intensifier. Older cath labs used cine film to record the information obtained, but since 2000, most new facilities are digital. The latest digital cath labs are biplane (have two X-ray sources) and digital, flat panel labs.
Biplane laboratories achieve two separate planes of view with the same injection and thus save time and limit contrast dye, limiting kidney damage in susceptible patients.the cardiologist rotates and gently manipulates the catheter to guide its tip into the opening of the coronary artery. X-ray movies are then taken during the injection of contrast material. Contrast material or "dye" is injected through the catheter and x-ray pictures are recorded on a movie film. The cardiologists steps on floor pedals to view x-ray images (fluoroscopy) or to film (cine angiograms) portions of the study.
Cath laboratories in the UK are staffed by a multidisciplinary team including a Physician (normally either a cardiologist or radiologist), an Anesthetist, a Cardiac Physiologist, a Nurse and a Radiographer. A new trend is emerging in cardiac services — the hybrid catheterization lab. According to CahLab Digest, a hybrid cath labs combine the traditional diagnostic functions of a cath lab with the surgical functions of an operating room. 
According to NFPA 99 2005 ed., Cath Labs are classified as critical care areas and fall within para. 126.96.36.199.2.3" Critical Branch of the emergency system and should be powered by emergency generator receptacles related to patient care.
- ↑ | Keys to Success in Designing a Hybrid Cath Lab, VOLUME: 17 PUBLICATION DATE: Mar 01 2009
- ↑ | The Electrical and Mechanical Challenges of Hybrid Cath Labs, VOLUME: 15 PUBLICATION DATE: Jun 01 2007