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A heart catheterization is a procedure used for both diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart defects.
As a test, this procedure allows doctors to see how blood flows through the heart chambers and arteries.
As a treatment, the doctor can use special tools to fix a heart defect during this procedure.
Before the test, your child receives medicine to make him or her relax and sleep-sedatives or sometimes general anesthesia.
A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is threaded through a blood vessel in the groin, or sometimes in another location, and into the heart. Through the catheter, the doctor can measure pressures, take blood samples, and inject a special dye (contrast material) into the chambers of the heart or blood vessels. The doctor watches the movement of the dye through the heart's chambers and blood vessels.
If the doctor is also going to treat a defect, special tools are moved through the catheter into the heart. The doctor uses these tools to correct the defect. Then the tools and the catheter are removed.
A heart catheterization usually takes between 2 and 3 hours to complete. After the procedure, pressure must be applied over the catheter site for 10 to 20 minutes to stop bleeding and bruising. Then a large bandage or compression device might be used to apply pressure to the catheter site for 4 to 6 hours. If the catheter was put in your child's groin, your child will need to lie as still as possible and keep the leg straight to prevent bleeding.
Your child might be able to go home the same day. If the procedure is more complex, your child might stay in the hospital overnight.
A heart catheterization might also be called angiography (angiogram), cardiac catheterization, or heart cath.
A heart catheterization can be used to:
A heart catheterization can be used to fix certain types of heart defects. A few different types of procedures can be used during a catheterization. The type of procedure used depends on the type of defect. These procedures include:
In a child who has a congenital heart defect, a heart catheterization shows how the blood is flowing through the heart. The exact heart problem can be seen and sometimes treated during the same procedure or a later one.
If your child has a complex heart defect, he or she might need a combination of surgery and catheterization to treat it.
Your child will continue to see the doctor to be sure that his or her heart is working right. Many children with a heart defect that was treated live healthy lives with few or no restrictions. Your child will need regular checkups throughout life.
Complications related to the catheter include:
Serious complications are rare, but they can be life-threatening. These complications may include:
Your child might need other tests, such as an MRI or a CT scan, so that the doctor can fully understand your child's heart defect.
Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.
Other Works ConsultedFeltes TF, et al. (2011). Indications for cardiac catheterization and intervention in pediatric cardiac disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(22): 2607-2652.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - PediatricsMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerLarry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology
Current as ofOctober 5, 2017
Current as of: October 5, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Larry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology
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