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Interventional cardiac catheterization can be used to treat certain heart problems. During the procedure, a special catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted through the skin into a blood vessel. It’s then guided into the heart with the help of live X-rays. An interventional cardiac catheterization procedure is performed by a pediatric cardiologist (doctor who diagnoses and treats heart problems in children). He or she has special training in cardiac catheterization.
Some catheterization procedures are preferred over heart surgery to treat certain heart defects. This is because they’re less invasive, have fewer risks and complications, and have a shorter recovery period. An interventional cardiac catheterization procedure can be used to:
Open heart valves or blood vessels. A balloon at the end of a catheter is inflated and deflated one or more times to open a valve or widen a blood vessel. A catheter may also be used to place a wire mesh tube (stent) in a blood vessel. This is a tiny device used to widen and keep open a blood vessel.
Close holes or blood vessels. A catheter is used to guide a device such as a coil or plug into the heart. This is usually done to close a hole in the heart or a blood vessel in or around the heart.
Don’t give your child anything to eat or drink for 4–6 hours before the procedure.
Follow all other instructions given by the doctor.
Recently had a cough, fever, runny nose, groin infection, or diaper rash.
Has any allergies.
Is taking any medications.
The procedure takes place in a catheterization laboratory. It usually lasts about 2–4 hours. You’ll stay in the waiting room during the procedure.
Your child lies on an x-ray table.
Your child is given a pain reliever and a sedative (medication that makes your child relax or sleep). This is done by mouth or an intravenous (IV) line. He or she may also be given anesthesia (medication that makes your child sleep and not feel pain). This is done by facemask or IV. A trained nurse or doctor (anesthesiologist) is in charge of this process.
A breathing tube may be placed in your child’s trachea (windpipe). Special equipment monitors your child’s heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure.
A local anesthetic (medication given so your child won’t feel pain) is injected at the catheter insertion site. This can be in the groin, arm, or arm and leg.
Then a catheter is passed through a blood vessel and is guided into the heart. The movement of the catheter can be seen with live X-rays.
Contrast dye is injected through the catheter. The dye tracks the movement of blood through the heart and allows the structures and blood vessels in the heart to be seen more clearly. Pictures are taken of the heart and blood vessels using X-rays.
Blood samples are drawn from the chambers and blood vessels in the heart. Oxygen levels and blood pressure are measured.
Specific interventions to open or close a valve, hole, or blood vessel in the heart are performed at this time.
The catheter is removed once the procedure is complete.
Reaction to sedative or anesthesia
Reaction to contrast dye
Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
Injury to the heart or a blood vessel
Your child is taken to a recovery room. You can stay with your child during this time.
It may take 1–2 hours for the medications to wear off.
Pressure and a dressing may be applied to the catheter insertion site to limit bleeding. Your child will need to keep the leg with the insertion site still for at least 2 hours.
Your child may be given only clear liquids to drink for a few hours. This to prevent reaction to any anesthesia if it was given.
Any contrast dye your child is given should pass through the body in about 24 hours.
An overnight hospital stay is often required. You’ll be given instructions for your child’s home care before he or she leaves the hospital.
Pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or drainage at the catheter insertion site
Severe pain, coldness, or a bluish color in the leg or arm that held the catheter
In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher
In a child 3 to 36 months, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher
In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher
A fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older
Your child has had a seizure caused by the fever
Shortness of breath
Irregular, rapid heartbeats (palpitations)
You can help your child by preparing him or her in advance. How you do this depends on your child’s needs.
Explain what will happen during the procedure in brief and simple terms. Younger children have shorter attention spans, so do this shortly before the procedure. Older children can be given more time to understand the procedure in advance.
Make sure your child understands which body part(s) will be involved in the procedure.
As best you can, describe how the procedure will feel. An IV may be inserted into the arm to give medications. This may cause a brief sting. Your child won’t feel any discomfort once the medications take effect.
Allow your child to ask questions and answer these questions truthfully. Your child may feel nervous or afraid. He or she may even cry. Let your child know that you’ll be nearby during the procedure.
Many hospitals have a child life specialist. This person is specially trained to help children understand what to expect during their time in the hospital. Books, videos, dolls, and toys may be used to help explain the procedure to your child. Be sure to ask your child’s doctor about the resources available at your hospital.