Your child's doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with you. You will also need to give written permission (informed consent) to move forward with the procedure.
The procedure is done in a cardiac catheterization (cath) lab in a hospital. Your child's doctor and a specially trained staff of nurses and technicians will be alongside your child throughout the process.
Your child is either given medicine to help him or her relax (sedation) or general anesthesia so he or she is asleep during the procedure. Once in the cath lab, he or she will lie on a small table with a lot of equipment nearby.
In general, here is what will happen:
- The healthcare team will give your child an injection of numbing medicine (local anesthetic) in the area where the catheter is going to be inserted. This is usually the groin. But other blood vessels may be used instead. These are the vessels in the neck or bellybutton
- The doctor will put a special tube (sheath) into the blood vessel. The doctor puts the catheter through the sheath. Sometimes more than one catheter is used
- The doctor guides the catheter through the blood vessel to the heart. The doctor uses moving X-rays (fluoroscopy) to help see where the catheter is
For diagnostic catheterization, the doctor may then:
- Take blood samples and measure oxygen levels in each of the 4 heart chambers and each blood vessel
- Measure blood pressure in each chamber and each blood vessel
- Inject contrast dye into the catheter and watch the path the dye takes through the heart (angiography)
If repairs are needed, the doctor may:
- Use a balloon to open a heart valve or narrowed blood vessel
- Put a small support (stent) in the blood vessel to keep it open
- Use special catheter tips to fix the walls between the upper or lower heart chambers (atria or ventricles) or abnormal blood vessels
- Use a special catheter tip to open a heart valve with heat
- Use a special catheter to examine and treat abnormal electrical activity in the heart
When the catheterization is done, the doctor will remove the catheter. Pressure will be applied to prevent bleeding. The healthcare team will put a bandage on the site where the catheter was put in.