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Heart Catheterization in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What do I 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 do I prepare my 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 should my child 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.

What are the 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

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Further information

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