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Heart Catheterization in Children


What you need to know about heart catheterization:

A heart catheterization is a procedure to look at your child's heart and blood vessels. Healthcare providers can measure oxygen levels and pressures in your child's heart. They can also fix problems in his heart or blood vessels.

How to prepare your child for heart catheterization:

  • Your healthcare provider may tell you not to give your child anything to eat or drink after midnight on the day of the procedure. Ask your healthcare provider what medicines your child should take before the procedure. Tell him if your child is sick or has been sick during the week before the procedure.
  • Your child may get contrast liquid to show the parts of his heart more clearly. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid or other medicines.
  • Your child may need a chest x-ray, ultrasound, or blood tests before his procedure. He may also need an electrocardiogram (ECG). Talk to your child's healthcare 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 asleep and free from pain during the procedure. He may instead be given IV sedation to make him relaxed and sleepy. He may also be given local anesthesia to numb the area. With local anesthesia, your child may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure, but he should not feel pain.
  • Your child's healthcare provider will insert a catheter into a blood vessel in your child's arm or leg. He will move a wire through the catheter and up into your child's heart. He may inject contrast liquid so he can see your child's blood vessels, heart tissue, or valves more clearly on the x-ray. He may also fix any blockages in your child's blood vessels or valves. He may make openings for blood to flow through the heart's wall, or close holes that are already there. A small piece of your child's heart tissue may be taken.
  • Your child's healthcare provider will remove the catheter. He may use stitches, clamps, or other devices to close the wound. Pressure will be applied to the wound for several minutes to help stop any bleeding. A pressure bandage or other pressure device may be placed over the wound to help prevent more bleeding.

What will happen after heart catheterization:

  • Your child will be attached to a heart monitor until he is fully awake. A heart monitor is an EKG that stays on continuously to record the electrical activity of your child's heart. Healthcare providers will monitor his vital signs and pulses in his arm or leg. They will frequently check your child's pressure bandage for bleeding or swelling.
  • It is important for your child to lie flat and keep his arm or leg straight to prevent bleeding. Do not let your child get out of bed until his healthcare provider says it is okay. Your child may need to stay in bed for 2 to 4 hours. He may be able to go home or may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

Risks of heart catheterization:

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

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You cannot stop the bleeding from the place where the catheter was, even with pressure.
  • The bruise where the catheter was gets bigger.
  • Your child becomes weak on one side of his body or face.
  • Your child has trouble speaking clearly.
  • Your child has a change in his vision.

Seek care immediately if:

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

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

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


Acetaminophen may be given to decrease your child's pain and fever. This medicine is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.


Do not allow your child to take a bath or swim until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Your child can take a sponge bath or shower the day after his procedure. Carefully wash the wound with soap and water. Pat the area dry after you wash it.

Care for your child's wound as directed:

Do not remove the bandage until directed by your child's healthcare provider. He may tell you to leave the bandage on until the day after the procedure. Put on a new, clean bandage after bathing as directed. Change your child's bandage when it gets wet or dirty. Monitor your child's wound every day for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus.

Care for your child:

  • Limit your child's activity to prevent bleeding. Have your child lie on the couch or rest quietly until the day after his procedure. Your child can take short walks to the bathroom or around the house. He should not play sports or do vigorous activity after his procedure. Ask your healthcare provider when he can return to normal activities.
  • Have your child drink liquids as directed. This may prevent blood clots and help your child heal faster. It may also help flush the contrast liquid used for the procedure out of your child's body. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him.

Follow up with your healthcare provider 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.