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Right Heart Catheterization

What is Right Heart Catheterization?
Right heart catheterization (RHC) is the most accurate way to measure the blood pressure in your heart and the arteries of your lungs (also called the pulmonary arteries). Depending on the findings of this test (and possibly other tests), your doctor will be able to determine whether you have a condition called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) or whether your symptoms are caused by a different problem.

How is RHC performed?
RHC is usually performed by either a cardiologist or a pulmonologist and is typically done in a hospital. Mild sedation and local anesthesia are used to prevent discomfort. During the procedure, the doctor inserts a very thin, flexible tube, called a catheter, into a vein in your body and guides it to your heart.

What is being measured during the procedure?
During RHC, the doctor measures the pressures inside the pulmonary arteries and chambers of your heart, how much oxygen is in your blood and the amount of blood your heart is able to pump each minute.

What other information is obtained by RHC?
A vasodilator test may also be performed during RHC to see if the blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries falls when a fast-acting, blood pressure-reducing medication is given. The results of this test can help your doctor decide on the type of therapy you may receive.