Conditions and Treatments

At Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, we use cardiac catheterization and angiography to diagnose a full range of simple to highly complex heart conditions, and we use interventional cardiology to treat certain heart conditions in children of all ages.

We regularly provide care for babies, children, and young adults with congenital heart disease, connective tissue disorders (such as Williams syndrome), pulmonary artery abnormalities, single ventricle or other anatomically complex hearts, those needing a heart surgery or heart transplant, pulmonary valve regurgitation, and many heart and lung conditions in between.

About cardiac catheterization

By inserting catheters (small tubes) in blood vessels that travel to the heart (often via the neck, arm, or groin), we gain an in-depth understanding of the anatomy of your child’s heart. Cardiac catheterization helps us evaluate how the heart is functioning by measuring oxygen levels and pressures. When inserting the catheter, we may also insert a contrast dye (angiography) so we can watch the blood flow through your child’s arteries and heart with an x-ray camera. With interventional devices, we can also treat certain heart issues with a tool that is passed through the catheter, such as a stent (metal mesh scaffold) or a balloon to open a blocked artery.

Treatment highlights

  • Our volume of pediatric catheter laboratory procedures is among those of the top four pediatric heart centers in the nation. High volumes are often tied to better results, as more experience with procedures leads to enhanced skills and the ability to anticipate and prevent complications, allowing superior outcomes for your child with heart disease.
  • We specialize in providing highly complex and innovative procedures that demand exceptional technical skills and nuanced heart care. Our cardiac catheterization team collaborates with other heart specialty programs within our renowned Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center to determine your child’s exact heart needs and provide them with heart care tailored specifically for them—whether that be a cardiac catheter intervention, a heart surgery, or a combination of the two.  
  • Your child will be cared for in one of our three highly advanced interventional cardiology laboratories equipped with cutting-edge technology. We even have a hybrid catheterization laboratory where we can perform combined surgical and catheterization procedures. Having a variety of state-of-the-art laboratories empowers us to offer more options and better care to children with complex hearts.
  • If your child requires a complex heart surgery or interventional cardiac catheterization procedure, ask about our Heart Center Coordination Program. We can provide your family with a cardiac nurse navigator to guide you through your child’s care journey at Stanford Children’s. The program is currently supporting pediatric patients with certain complex heart needs.

Examples of how we use cardiac catheterization to diagnose and treat your child’s heart condition

  • Using cardiac catheterization instead of open heart surgery when a child is a good candidate for this heart procedure. For example, we use specialized balloon catheters (angioplasty) to open narrowed valves, veins, and arteries (i.e., due to a congenital heart disease). Examples of angioplasty procedures include pulmonary or aortic valvuloplasty (opening a narrowed valve), pulmonary artery or pulmonary vein angioplasty, systemic vein dilation, and atrial septostomy (creating an opening between heart chambers).
  • Placing stents in narrowed vessels or obstructed areas of the heart to keep the area open. Examples include stenting pulmonary arteries, pulmonary veins, narrowed parts of the aorta, systemic veins, the patent ductus arteriosus in babies requiring this opening for pulmonary blood flow or aortic blood flow, right ventricle to pulmonary artery connections that develop stenosis, and the atrial septum for patients needing an open channel.
  • Replacing heart valves with one of several leading-edge transcatheter valves for improved connection and flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery to fix pulmonary stenosis and regurgitation. These valves help children avoid open heart surgery and experience a faster recovery, less pain, lower anesthesia dosage, and a shorter hospital stay.
  • Using the latest patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) device in preterm babies with a persistently patent (open) ductus arteriosus shortly after birth to improve breathing, growth, and development.
  • Partnering with our world-renowned Pulmonary Artery Reconstruction Program to help grow pulmonary arteries in babies born with tetralogy of Fallot, pulmonary atresia, and  MAPCAs.
  • Closing certain types of holes in the heart, such as placing a device to close a ventricular septal defect—a hole in the wall between the lower chambers of the heart—or an atrial septal defect—a hole in the wall between the upper chambers of the heart.
  • Repairing the heart to decrease the degree of cyanosis (low oxygen saturations accompanied by a blue tint to the skin, nails, and eyes).
  • Studying coronary anomalies with special catheters (i.e., IVUS and FFR) to evaluate coronary artery anatomy and flows.
  • Collecting measurements on pressures and oxygen levels within the heart by taking blood samples and then calculating flows.
  • Visualizing the structures of the heart using x-ray dye for improved diagnostics.