Heart Catheterization for Congenital Heart Defects
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.
How is it done?
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 might be used to apply pressure to the catheter site for 4 to 6 hours. Your child will need to lie as still as possible and keep the leg in which the catheter was inserted straight to prevent bleeding. You may need to hold your child in your lap after the test to prevent leg movement, or your child can wear a leg board with a Velcro strap to hold the leg still.
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.
Why It Is Done
As a test
A heart catheterization can be used to:
As a treatment
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:1
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 and normal lives with few or no restrictions. Your child will need regular checkups throughout life.
What To Think About
Your child might have other tests along with a catheterization so that the doctor can fully understand your child's heart defect. These other tests might be an MRI or a CT scan.
Complications related to the catheter include:
Serious complications are rare, but they can be life-threatening. These complications may include:
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