Swan-Ganz Catheterization

Written by Natalie Phillips | Published on July 10, 2012
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, FACP

What Is a Swan-Ganz Catheterization?

A Swan-Ganz catheterization is a type of pulmonary artery catheterization procedure.

It is a diagnostic test used to determine whether any hemodynamic abnormalities exist in the heart and lungs. It can be a useful test for people who have recently had heart problems, such as a heart attack.

The procedure involves the insertion of a pulmonary artery catheter (PAC), also known as a Swan-Ganz catheter or right heart catheter, into the right side of the heart and into the arteries that lead to the lungs. The PAC is a balloon floatation catheter and can be inserted at the bedside without the aid of radiological guidance or fluoroscopy. (Circulation)

The procedure itself is sometimes referred to as a “right heart catheterization” because it can measure right atrial pressure, pulmonary artery pressure, and pulmonary capillary wedge pressure. These measurements can be used to assess oxygenation of the blood in the right heart and overall cardiac output. (Circulation)

What Is a Pulmonary Artery Catheter?

A pulmonary artery catheter (PAC) is a long, thin tube with a balloon tip on the end that helps it to move smoothly through the blood vessels and into the right chamber of the heart. The PAC has been in clinical use for more than 30 years. According to Duke Medicine, more than one million pulmonary artery catheter procedures are done every year in the United States (Duke, 2005).

The PAC is a diagnostic tool used to monitor heart and lung function and to evaluate the effectiveness of medications. It is generally inserted into one of three veins:

In a Swan-Ganz catheterization, the PAC is inserted into one of these access points and guided into the vessels and chambers of the right heart and lung.

Why Is Swan-Ganz Catheterization Performed?

A right heart catheterization evaluates the hemodynamics, or flow of blood, as it circulates through the heart and lungs and into the body. It is often used to check for complications in the heart, lungs, or kidneys.

The procedure is also used to evaluate:

  • heart failure
  • heart function following a heart attack
  • shock
  • congenital heart disease
  • valvular heart disease (leaky heart valves)
  • cardiomyopathy
  • pulmonary hypertension