Preparing for Cardiac Catheterization

We understand that receiving a cardiac catheterization procedure may be scary for your child. That’s why we do everything we can to help them feel as comfortable as possible. Cardiac catheterization is quite safe, and complications are rare. To prepare for your child’s procedure, explain to them what to expect:

The evening before

  • Your child needs to have an empty stomach, so we will have you stop solid foods and all liquids at a set time the evening before the procedure.

When you arrive

  • When you arrive at the Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center, a nurse checks your child’s vitals—heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, etc.
  • A numbing cream is placed at the site of the catheter(s) and IVs. This will numb any pain with placing these lines. The IV will likely be placed on your child’s hand to deliver anesthesia or a sedative.
  • Once sedated, your child is taken into the cardiac catheterization laboratory. We ask you to wait in the lobby, and we provide updates on your child’s progress.
  • The procedure usually lasts two to four hours.

During the procedure

  • Our interventional heart doctors place a cardiac catheter (a long, thin flexible tube) into a large vein and/or artery, usually in your child’s leg or neck.
  • We watch the catheter on an x-ray camera as we guide it to different areas of the heart.
  • For a diagnostic cardiac catheterization, the catheter allows us to measure oxygen and pressures in the heart to understand how well it is functioning.
  • For an interventional cardiac catheterization, we can deliver very small instruments through the catheter to perform repairs or open up blood vessels and arteries, saving your child an open heart surgery if they qualify for this procedure.
  • We closely monitor your child throughout the cardiac catheterization process.
  • No stitches are required; a dressing is placed over the catheter site.

After the procedure

  • Your child is cared for in our recovery area. Once they are alert, they are provided clear liquids and later something to eat.
  • Upon discharge, we provide instructions for caring for the catheter site at home.

At home

  • We ask you to keep the catheter site clean and dry for three to five days to allow healing.
  • It’s best to have your child avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activities during this time.
  • Please call us or your pediatric cardiologist with any questions or concerns.