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Cath Lab Tech

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What is a Cath Lab Tech?

Cath lab techs are also called cath lab technicians or cardiac catheterization technologists. These professionals work in healthcare facilities where patients undergo tests aimed at uncovering heart conditions.

Although the duties of a cath lab tech, electrophysiology tech, and vascular interventional radiology tech are similar, the heart procedures they perform and assist with are different. For example, a cardiac catheterization evaluates anatomical structures and looks for blockages within the heart. The electrophysiology lab focuses on mapping the electrical system within the heart and vascular interventional radiology is a subspecialty of radiology that uses image-guided procedures to diagnose and treat conditions of the vascular system.

What does a Cath Lab Tech Do?

The roles of cath lab techs, interventional radiology techs, and EP techs often intersect, but each has distinct specialties. Below is a breakdown of their roles:

Cath Lab Techs

Cath lab techs specialize primarily in the cardiovascular system.  Their responsibilities include:

  • Performing EKG tests
  • Assisting with treadmill stress testing
  • Completing blood pressure assessments
  • Assisting with invasive cardiac catheterization
  • Recognizing cardiac arrhythmias
  • Assisting physicians during adverse reactions or acute emergencies
  • Verifying lab results before procedures
  • Patient education related to cardiology
  • Scheduling appointments and maintaining cardiology patient files
  • Caring for equipment specific to cath lab procedures
  • Assisting in open heart or pacemaker insertion procedures

Interventional Radiology Techs

Interventional radiology techs specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases through imaging technologies. They are a crucial part of the interventional radiology team. Their responsibilities can include:

  • Preparing patients for radiologic procedures
  • Assisting in image-guided procedures like angioplasty, stent placement, or tumor ablations
  • Managing imaging devices such as CT, MRI, and ultrasound machines
  • Administering contrast media and medications as directed by the interventional radiologist
  • Verifying image results and ensuring clear imaging for accurate diagnosis
  • Patient education related to imaging procedures
  • Maintaining and caring for radiology equipment and instruments

Electrophysiology (EP) Techs 

EP techs are experts in the electrical activity and pathways of the heart. They are vital in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. Their responsibilities encompass:

  • Assisting with electrophysiological studies to measure the heart's electrical activity
  • Supporting during device implantation procedures such as pacemakers or defibrillators
  • Monitoring patients during EP testing or ablation procedures
  • Recognizing and responding to abnormal heart rhythms during procedures
  • Maintaining and operating EP lab equipment
  • Assisting physicians in treating patients with arrhythmias
  • Patient education related to heart rhythms and devices
  • Scheduling appointments and maintaining EP patient files

What skills does a Cath Lab Tech need?

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What skills does a Cath Lab Tech need?

Cath lab/IR/EP techs need a strong grasp of human anatomy, the ability to interpret diagnostic images, an understanding of how to maintain sterile procedures, and the use and maintenance of diagnostic imaging equipment. Beyond the technical requirements, these will require a strong mix of soft skills to be an effective member of the team. These include:

  • The ability to stay calm and think clearly in an emergency
  • An eye for detail
  • Effective communication
  • Seamless teamwork
  • Ability to adapt to change
  • Comfortable using medical equipment
  • Empathy

These techs should also have experience with airway maintenance, defibrillator setup and use, blood pressure monitoring, and using the special equipment found in a cardiac cath lab. The role a technician plays varies based on the cardiovascular test, healthcare organization, and potentially the cardiovascular physician with whom they are working.

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Cath Lab Techs

Work settings for Cath Lab Techs

Cath lab techs are predominantly found in inpatient healthcare facilities that maintain a cardiac catheterization lab. These settings are specially designed to diagnose and treat cardiovascular issues, leveraging state-of-the-art imaging technology. The primary objective is to address blockages and other heart-related problems, minimizing the need for surgery. 

Interventional radiology techs typically work in specialized radiology departments within hospitals or standalone imaging centers. These facilities are equipped with advanced imaging modalities, such as CT, MRI, and fluoroscopy, to assist interventional radiologists in performing minimally invasive procedures. In addition to diagnosing and treating vascular issues, interventional radiology can also be employed for non-vascular procedures, such as tumor biopsies or drain placements.

EP techs mostly operate within electrophysiology labs, which can be part of larger hospitals or specialized cardiac centers. These labs are designed to investigate, diagnose, and treat electrical abnormalities of the heart. Equipped with sophisticated mapping and imaging systems, these labs enable the accurate identification and treatment of arrhythmias and other heart rhythm disorders. EP Techs also play a role in assisting with the implantation and maintenance of devices like pacemakers and defibrillators.Depending on the facility they’re working in, these professionals can work irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, and may take on-call shifts.

Common Cases Cath Lab Techs Encounter

Patients who require cardiac catheterization, electrophysiology, or interventional radiology are suspected of having a cardiovascular problem or are undergoing a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure to correct a heart problem. This might include patients with:

  • Cardiomyopathy that interferes with the ability to pump blood
  • Congenital heart disease, including ventricular and atrial septal defects
  • Coronary artery disease such as narrowed or blocked arteries
  • Heart failure prevents the heart from effectively pumping blood
  • Valvular heart disease in which there is leaking or narrowing of one of the four valves in the heart that regulate blood flow

Electrophysiology technicians collaborate with physicians to identify the electrical reasons for heart failure or cardiomyopathy. Vascular interventional radiology techs may be involved in the treatment of coronary artery disease, guiding minimally invasive procedures such as stenting or angioplasty using imaging.

How to Become A Cath Lab Tech

To become a cath lab, IR, or EP tech, most students typically follow a two-year educational track leading to an associate degree. This assumes full-time attendance without unscheduled interruptions, though many institutions offer part-time options catering to working students. The general pathway is as follows:

Identify an Accredited Program:

  • Search for accredited cardiovascular technology, interventional radiology, or electrophysiology programs in your vicinity or preferred location.

Ensure You Meet Admission Criteria:

While prerequisites might vary slightly between the specialties, common criteria often include:

  • Being a high school graduate.
  • Having completed general education prerequisite credits.
  • Possession of a valid CPR certification.
  • Updated physical and immunization records.
  • Successfully passing drug screening and background checks.


  • Submit your application, ensuring all required admission materials are included, to your chosen program.

Once enrolled, students will receive specialized training tailored to their chosen field, preparing them for their respective roles in the healthcare environment.‍

How to Advance Your Career As A Cath Lab Tech

Once you've achieved your associate degree and passed the certification examination in your initial specialty, there are multiple avenues for career advancement:

Diversifying Skill Sets:

  • A cath lab tech, for instance, can acquire skills to transition into an electrophysiology lab tech or interventional radiology tech role.
  • An IR tech might dive deeper into other imaging techniques or branch into cath lab technology.
  • An EP tech might consider expanding their knowledge into cath Lab or IR procedures.

Further Education:

  • While diversifying, you may need additional education. Fortunately, many programs recognize and accept credits from previously completed accredited courses, making the transition smoother.

Pursuing Another Medical Profession:

  • Your experience in the cath lab is a great foundation for many medical tracks if that's what you desire!  Pursuing another medical career path could allows you to work in specialized labs like the cath lab, but also opens doors to various other medical fields and advancement opportunities.

By continuously updating skills and seeking further education, techs in these fields can significantly enhance their career trajectories and patient impact.

Education Requirements & Helpful Certification

Cath Lab, IR, and EP techs engage with intricate health issues and advanced equipment, necessitating specialized training:

Educational Foundation:

  • An associate degree, typically spanning two years, is essential. Depending on the specialty, prospective techs should enroll in programs like cardiovascular technology, interventional radiology, or electrophysiology. These programs should be accredited by recognized bodies, such as the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Program Structure:

  • These programs adopt a balanced two-year curriculum, intertwining classroom learning with hands-on clinical experience. They impart knowledge about the respective system's functions—be it cardiovascular, radiological, or electrophysiological—and train students to proficiently operate the requisite equipment during procedures.


  • Upon graduation, candidates become eligible for nationally recognized certification examinations. For cath lab techs, an example is the Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS) examination.
  • These certifications, such as the RCIS offered by Cardiovascular Credentialing International, are invaluable. They not only enhance employment prospects but also positively influence salary potential. Such tests are typically structured as 3-hour multiple-choice assessments.

Maintaining Certification & State Licensure:

  • It's important to note that these certifications are not a one-time achievement. They need periodic renewals, requiring adherence to continuing education requirements to ensure techs remain updated with evolving practices and technologies.
  • There are 37 states that require cath lab techns to obtain state-specific licensure. Be sure to check out Trusted Health’s state-by-state certification and licensure guide for cath lab techs, with helpful tips and links to licensure information and employment opportunities. 

Average Salary For Cath Lab Techs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median wage for a cardiovascular tech is $57,720 and the median hourly wage is $27.75. Over three-quarters of cath lab techs work within hospitals, yet the top-paying industry is outpatient care centers where the annual mean wage is $77,740. The top-paying states are Oregon, the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.

Specialty Organizations & Communities

Professional organizations and associations offer an opportunity to network and options to advance your career. These organizations were designed to help meet the needs of cath lab, IR, and EP techs.

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Travel Cath Lab Tech 101

Interested in a travel Cath Lab Tech career? Here’s all you need to get started.

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What is a Cath Lab Tech?

Further Travel Healthcare Resources

Here are some broad resources to help you in your travel healthcare career, applicable to Allied health roles as well as travel nursing.

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