Pulmonary Artery Catheterization

Also known as: pulmonary artery catheters, PAC, Swan-Ganz catheterization.

What is pulmonary artery catheterization?

The pulmonary arteries are the two major vessels coming from the right side of the heart that carry blood low in oxygen from the heart to the lungs. Pulmonary artery catheterization is a procedure where a long thin flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into a blood vein in the groin area of a leg and guided into the right side of the heart to the pulmonary arteries. It is done to diagnose or treat a number of heart conditions.

What happens during the procedure?

The procedure is performed by specialized cardiologists who will discuss the benefits and risks, and obtain your written permission to perform the catheterization. Usually, in a special laboratory (Cath lab), your child will be placed on a table (with x-ray and monitoring equipment) and with specially trained doctors, nurses and technicians to monitor him/her, and provide medication to help the child relax or sleep. After local anesthesia to numb the groin area, a catheter (a long, thin, flexible tube) is inserted through a small incision in the groin area and is guided into the right atrium (top right chamber of the heat) into the right ventricle and then main pulmonary artery and/or then into one or both pulmonary artery branches. Many measurements (blood pressure/oxygen content/ x-rays and x-ray movies/angiograms) are made along the way and a dye may injected into the catheter to identify the path blood takes through the heart. For some abnormalities of the heart of pulmonary arteries, a catheter outfitted with a balloon that can be inflated, may be used (interventional cardiology).

Is any special preparation needed? 

Your child will need to avoid food, drink and certain medications before the procedure.

What are the risk factors? 

Vascular and abnormalities of heart rhythm are the most common complications (in about 3 percent of children), though critically ill children undergoing the procedure are at increased risk. Other risks include infection, pain, bleeding, blood clots, reduced blood flow to the lungs or damage to surrounding organs and tissues.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 8/31/2018 8:20:20 AM

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