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Heart Catheterization in Children


What you need to know about heart catheterization:

Heart catheterization is a procedure that helps diagnose and treat some heart problems. Healthcare providers can measure oxygen levels and pressures in your child's heart. They can also fix problems with the valves, blood vessels, or walls of your child's heart.

How to prepare your child for heart catheterization:

  • Your child's healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare him or her. The provider may tell you not to give your child anything to eat or drink after midnight on the day of the procedure.
  • Tell the provider if your child is sick or has been sick during the week before the procedure.
  • Tell the provider about all medicines your child currently takes. He or she will tell you if your child needs to stop any medicine for the procedure, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to give or not give your child on the day of the procedure.
  • Your child may get contrast liquid to show the parts of his or her heart more clearly. Tell the provider if your child had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid or other medicines.
  • Your child may need a chest x-ray, ultrasound, or blood tests before his or her procedure. He or she may also need an electrocardiogram (ECG). Talk to your child's provider about these or other tests your child may need.

What will happen during heart catheterization:

  • Your child may be given general anesthesia to keep him or her asleep and free from pain during the procedure. He or she may also be given local anesthesia to numb the area.
  • Your child's healthcare provider will insert a catheter into a blood vessel in your child's arm or leg. He or she will move a wire through the catheter and up into your child's heart. He or she may inject contrast liquid to help blood vessels, heart tissue, or valves show up more clearly in pictures. He or she may also fix any blockages in your child's blood vessels or valves. Openings may be made for blood to flow through the heart's wall. Holes that are already there may be closed. A small piece of your child's heart tissue may be taken to be tested.
  • Your child's provider will remove the catheter. He or she may use stitches, clamps, or other devices to close the procedure area. Pressure will be applied for several minutes to help stop any bleeding. A pressure bandage or other pressure device may be placed over the area to help prevent more bleeding.

What your child should expect after heart catheterization:

  • Your child will be attached to a heart monitor until he or she is fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor pulses in his or her arm or leg. They will check your child's pressure bandage for bleeding or swelling.
  • It is important for your child to lie flat and keep his or her arm or leg straight to prevent bleeding. Do not let your child get out of bed until his or her healthcare provider says it is okay. Your child may need to stay in bed for 2 to 4 hours. He or she may be able to go home or may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
  • Your child may have a bruise or pain where the catheter went in. This is expected and should get better soon.

Risks of heart catheterization:

Your child may bleed more than expected. He or she may need surgery to repair holes in his or her heart or blood vessels made by the catheter. He or she may get a life-threatening blood clot in his or her leg or arm. Your child could have an irregular heartbeat or heart attack. His or her lung could collapse, or he or she could develop an infection.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child's catheter site does not stop bleeding even after you apply firm pressure for 10 minutes.
  • The bruise at the catheter site gets bigger.
  • Your child becomes weak on one side of his or her body or face.
  • Your child has trouble speaking clearly.
  • Your child has a change in his or her vision.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child's stitches come apart.
  • Your child's leg or arm loses feeling, is painful, or changes color.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child has a fever or chills.
  • Your child's catheter site is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • Your child has nausea or is vomiting.
  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your child's procedure area:

  • Keep the area clean and dry.
    • Do not remove the bandage until directed by your child's healthcare provider. He or she may tell you to leave the bandage on until the day after the procedure.
    • Do not let your child take baths or go in hot tubs or pools. He or she may be able to shower the day after the procedure. Remove the pressure bandage before your child showers. Carefully wash the procedure area with soap and water. Then pat the area dry.
    • Put on a new, clean bandage after your child bathes, as directed. Change your child's bandage when it gets wet or dirty. Check the area every day for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus.
    • Mild bruising is normal and expected. Do not put powders, lotions, or creams on the area.
  • Apply firm, steady pressure if bleeding occurs. A small amount of bleeding from the area is possible. Apply pressure with a clean gauze or towel for 5 to 10 minutes. Call your local emergency number if bleeding becomes heavy or does not stop after 10 minutes of pressure.

Care for your child:

  • Limit your child's activity to prevent bleeding. Have your child lie on the couch or rest quietly. Your child can take short walks to the bathroom or around the house. He or she should not play sports or do vigorous activity after his or her procedure. Ask when your child can return to his or her usual daily activities.
  • Have your child drink liquids as directed. This may prevent blood clots and help your child heal faster. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him or her.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.