Interventional Cardiology

In this Article

Interventional cardiology can be used for a variety of heart procedures. Your child might need an interventional cardiology procedure to test for a heart problem, or they may need one to fix a heart problem. It is a group of procedures where a catheter is put into the heart to treat or diagnose heart diseases. A catheter is a long, thin tube that is moved through a blood vessel and to the heart.

What is interventional cardiology?

Interventional cardiology refers to a group of procedures in which a catheter is used to diagnose or treat heart problems.

During an interventional cardiology procedure, a catheter is moved through a blood vessel to your child’s heart. The catheter can be used to take samples of blood or tissue, close or open vessels of the heart, and check for other kinds of heart conditions. The catheter is inserted using a real-time x-ray call fluoroscopy [flu-ROS-kuh-pee]. The procedure is done in a special room called a catheterization [kath-ih-tur-eyez-AY-shun] lab. It is done by several nurses and doctors who monitor your child during the procedure.

Diagnostic catheterizations, which are done to check for heart problems, are not used as often as other imaging tests like an MRI or CT scans.

What are the risks?

The risks of a cardiac catheterization procedure may include:

  • A lower body temperature that can cause hypothermia
  • Any of the risks that come with radiation
  • Any of the risks that come with anesthesia
  • Injury to the heart or blood vessels
  • Loss of blood
  • Lower oxygen level
  • Allergic reaction
  • Kidney damage
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Low blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Death

The procedure is considered safe when done by a team with experience.

What are the benefits?

A cardiac catheterization can be used to treat:

  • Openings between the two sides of the heart that need to be closed
  • Blood vessels that need to be closed, widened, or narrowed
  • A heart that’s beating too fast or too slow

Catheterization can be used to check:

  • Heart defects
  • Pressure in the heart
  • Heart valves
  • Electrical activity
  • Issues after surgery
  • The general state of the heart’s health

How do I prepare?

Before your child has the procedure, they may be asked to stop eating or drinking, or stop taking certain medications.

If your child gets sick, it may mean that the catheterization procedure will have to wait until they are healthy.

If your child is old enough, try to explain as best you can what is going to happen during the procedure. Your healthcare provider may have more experience explaining what will happen. Ask them for help.

As with any surgery it’s important to tell the doctor about any allergies your child may have, or medicines they may be taking.

Make sure your child is wearing clothes that are comfortable and won’t interfere with the procedure. Be sure you have a clear understanding of what the procedure is and why it’s being done. Ask your child’s doctor about the risks, benefits, or alternatives.

How is it done?

Cardiac catheterization is done by a heart doctor, called a cardiologist [kahr-dee-OL-uh-jist], in a special room called a catheterization lab.

Your child will be on a table in a room with a team of nurses and doctors, as well as instruments and monitors, to help with the procedure.

Your child will be given an IV, or intravenous line, which is a needle that is inserted into their vein. During the procedure, the doctor can give your child fluids or anesthesia through this line.

The catheter will normally be put into a blood vessel in your child’s groin area, but it can also be put into neck, arm, or belly. The catheter is inserted through a tube and then guided through the blood vessel into the heart

Once the catheter reaches the heart, a dye is injected to help the doctors see what’s going on inside your child’s body. While the catheter is in place, other things may be done, including:

  • Taking samples of blood or heart tissue to examine in a lab
  • Surgery to fix problems in the heart. Balloons or supports may be put in to keep valves or vessels open during the surgery
  • Measuring of oxygen levels
  • Special tips that can open or close heart valves and vessels

Once the catheter is taken out, the team of nurses and doctors will put pressure on the insertion site to keep it from bleeding. The wound will be cleaned and bandaged.

When will I know the results?

Some time may be needed to conduct lab tests on the samples taken during an interventional cardiology procedure. Your child’s doctor will let you know how the procedure went once it’s complete.

What are follow-up requirements and options?

After the procedure, your child may need to stay in the hospital while they get better. Before you leave, your child’s care team will tell you how to take care of your child at home. Their instructions will include what medicines to give your child, how to deal with bathing, and when to contact your doctor.

If the catheter was put into your child’s leg, make sure they walk for short periods of time after they’ve been sitting or lying down.

Your child might need to have other procedures or tests depending on what was found during the catheterization.

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