What is Heart Catheterization in Children?

Pediatric cardiac catheterization is a medical procedure that determines how well your child’s heart is working. A catheter is inserted into the heart to measure blood flow, blood pressure, and capture X-ray images. Our team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital uses heart catheterization and a variety of other tests to diagnose and monitor potential heart conditions.

How does this procedure work?

Around 6 to 8 hours before the pediatric cardiac catheterization procedure, patients will be asked to avoid consuming food, drink, and certain medicines. After taking pre-procedure medication, a sheath is inserted into a blood vessel, usually in the groin area. Through this sheath, a long tube called a catheter is threaded through the vessel to the heart. With the catheter safely in place, various other instruments can be inserted to conduct tests on the heart. The risk factors can be mild or temporary, including bruising around where the catheter is inserted or itchiness/upset stomach if contrast dye is used. 

Our team and family-first approach

The Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization and Interventional Program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital is widely recognized as one of the world’s leaders in interventional cardiac catheterization. By utilizing the latest innovations in imaging technologies, coupled with the newest catheter and device technologies, the cardiologists at The Heart Program are able to routinely perform both simple and complex interventional cardiac catheterization procedures that serve to enhance or, in certain cases, eliminate the need for open-heart surgery.

While the catheterization laboratory is a high-tech environment, the program philosophy of high-tech meets high-touch is evident in every aspect of care. Families learn about their child’s procedure in a special pre-catheterization clinic and are encouraged to remain with their child in the cath lab until he or she is comfortably asleep. Blood work is completed while children are sleeping, in keeping with the hospital’s emphasis on minimizing stress. This family focused approach to care has contributed to the program’s international reputation and prominence.

All currently available interventional  pediatric cardiac catheterization procedures are performed, including:

How we’re innovating pediatric cardiac catheterization

A number of new heart catheterization devices and techniques have been developed or refined at The Heart Program including:
  • Hybrid procedures (combined with surgery) to approach complex cardiovascular conditions
  • Atrial septal defect closure using the Gore HELEX® Septal Occluder
  • Radiofrequency energy to treat structural heart disease
  • Replacement of pulmonary valves using Medtronic Melody™ transcatheter valve and delivery system
  • Replacement of pulmonary valves using the Edwards Lifesciences SAPIEN™ transcatheter heart valve