Swan-Ganz catheterization is the passing of a thin tube (catheter) into the right side of the heart and the arteries leading to the lungs. It is done to monitor the heart's function and blood flow. This test is most often done in persons who are very ill.
How the Test is Performed
The test can be done while you are in bed in an intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital or in special procedure areas such as a cardiac catheterization laboratory.
Before the test starts, you may be given medicine (sedative) to help you relax.
You will lie on a padded table. Your doctor will make a small surgical cut near the groin or in your neck. A flexible tube (catheter or sheath) is placed through the cut into a vein. Sometimes, it will be placed in your arm. You will be awake during the procedure.
A larger catheter is inserted and carefully moved into the upper chamber of the right side of the heart. X-ray images may be used to help the health care provider see where the catheter should be placed.
Blood may be removed from the catheter to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood.
During the procedure, your heart's rhythm will be constantly watched using an electrocardiogram (ECG).
How to Prepare for the Test
You should not eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the test starts. You may need to stay in the hospital the night before the test. Otherwise, you will check in to the hospital the morning of the test.
You will wear a hospital gown. You must sign a consent form before the test. Your health care provider will explain the procedure and its risks.
How the Test will Feel
You may be given medicine to help you relax before the procedure. You will be awake and able to follow instructions during the test.
You may feel some discomfort when the IV is placed into your arm. You may also feel some pressure at the site when the catheter is inserted. In people who are critically ill, the catheter may stay in place for several days.
You may feel discomfort when the area of the vein is numbed with anesthetic.
Why the Test is Performed
The procedure is done to evaluate how the blood moves (circulates) in people who have:
- Abnormal pressures in the heart arteries
- Congenital heart disease
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Leaky heart valves (valvular regurgitation)
It may also be done to monitor for complications of heart attack and to see how well certain heart medicines are working.
Swan-Ganz catheterization can also be used to detect abnormal blood flow between two areas of the heart that are not normally connected.
Conditions that can also be diagnosed or evaluated with Swan-Ganz catheterization include:
- Cardiac index is 2.8 to 4.2 liters per minute per square meter (of body surface area)
- Pulmonary artery systolic pressure is 17 to 32 millimeters of mercury (mmHg)
- Pulmonary artery mean pressure is 9 to 19 mmHg
- Pulmonary diastolic pressure is 4 to 13 mmHg
- Pulmonary capillary wedge pressure is 4 to 12 mmHg
- Right atrial pressure is 0 to 7 mmHg
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may be due to:
- Blood flow problems, such as heart failure or shock
- Heart valve disease
- Lung disease
- Structural problems with the heart, such as a septal defect
Risks of the procedure include:
- Bruising around the area where the catheter was inserted
- Injury to the vein
- Puncture to the lung if the neck or chest veins are used, causing lung collapse (pneumothorax)
Very rare complications include:
Right heart catheterization; Catheterization - right heart
Davidson CJ, Bonow RO. Cardiac catheterization. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 20.
Kern M. Catheterization and angiography. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 55.
Update Date 8/12/2014
Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.