Cardiac Catheterization

In this Article

What are the Risks and/or Side Effects?

Serious risks and complications from cardiac catheterization are rare, but possible risks include the following:

  • Pain, discomfort, or bruising where a catheter was inserted
  • Bleeding
  • Injury to the heart, lung, or a blood vessel from a needle or catheter
  • Exposure to radiation (x-rays)
  • A reaction to the dye used to take pictures of the heart

What are the Benefits?

Cardiac catheterization has several benefits. For example, it can:

  • Provide information about which medicine will be best for the child
  • Show problems with the heart or blood vessels that need to be fixed with surgery
  • Let doctors fix a heart or blood vessel problem without doing surgery. This can help a child recover faster.

How do I Prepare?

Before the procedure, you should:

  • Make sure you understand when your child should stop eating and drinking and what medicines they should not take.
  • Tell your child’s doctor about any other medical problems they have and what medicines they are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, supplements, inhalers, liquid medicines, and patches.
  • Tell the doctor if your child has ever had a bad reaction to any medicines, dyes, or foods.
  • Tell the doctor if your child has a runny nose, cough, fever, vomiting, diarrhea or any other sickness that day. You might need to reschedule the procedure for another day.

How is it Done or Administered?

Before cardiac catheterization begins, a child might have an intravenous [in-truh-VEE-nuh s] or IV line placed so they can get medicine during the procedure. They will also get a sedative (a medicine to help them relax).

The cardiac catheterization procedure takes about 2 to 3 hours. These are the steps:

  • Doctors place a breathing tube through the child’s mouth and into their lung so they can breathe safely.
  • The child’s skin will be numbed where the catheters will be put in. This could be on the child’s arm, leg, or neck.
  • The catheters will be threaded into the heart.
  • The doctor will use the catheters to take pictures of the child’s heart, measure blood pressure, or fix a problem.

After the procedure, the catheters are removed from the child’s body. Pressure is applied to stop bleeding, and a bandage is put on. The child will be watched for a while before they can go home.

When Will I Know the Results?

Your child’s doctor or another member of their healthcare team will talk with you after the procedure.

What are Follow-up Requirements and Options?

Make a follow-up appointment with the child’s doctor when it is recommended.

What Should I Expect During Recovery?

After the procedure:

  • You can take your child’s bandage off the next day.
  • Do not let your child put the area where the catheter was inserted under water. Keep your child out of the bathtub, pool, and hot tub for 2 days.
  • Have your child rest for 2 days. Do not let them exercise or be active. Short walks are OK.

Call your child’s doctor if you notice any of these problems:

  • Bleeding from the catheter site.
  • Pain at the catheter site that lasts more than a few days.
  • Signs of infection such as a fever, fluid coming from the catheter site, redness or warmth at the site.

Call 911 right away if:

  • Your child faints or can’t breathe.
  • There is a lot of bleeding from the catheter site.

What is Cardiac Catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization helps a child’s doctor evaluate the child’s heart and blood vessels. A heart doctor (cardiologist) inserts a long, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in a child’s leg or neck. Then, the catheter is threaded into the child’s heart.

Doctors use the catheter to measure blood pressure and take pictures of a child’s heart and blood vessels. Some types of heart problems also can be treated with cardiac catheterization.