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What to Expect: Cardiac Catheterization

These instructions have been developed specifically for use by Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (Connecticut Children’s) patients under the supervision of a pediatric cardiologist as part of an active treatment plan, and are made available for informational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice and are not a replacement for professional medical judgment or care.

A cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to evaluate and treat heart problems. This procedure may be necessary if a heart problem is suspected in you/your child, with the intent of acquiring information only. A catheterization may be therapeutic as well, providing a treatment or intervention for an abnormality, such as congenital heart defects.

A catheterization is performed with the use of thin, flexible tubes (catheters), which are inserted through the skin into a blood vessel (often the leg). Live x-ray images allow the physician to guide the catheters through the heart. Cardiac catheterizations are performed by a pediatric cardiologist with specialized training in cardiac catheterizations.

Before the Procedure

  • If having a device placed (ASD, PDA, Stent), you/your child may be asked to start aspirin 3 days before the procedure.
  • Follow any other instructions given to you by the catheterization staff, such as holding medications, the morning of the procedure.

Day of the Procedure

  • You/your child will need to be fasting for 6-8 hours before the procedure. These instructions will be reviewed with you by our catheterization nurse at your pre-procedural appointment, as well as during your pre-admission testing phone call.
  • You/your child will meet with the anesthesia team, as well as the peri-operative staff. You will also be seen by pediatric cardiologists and other cath lab staff.
  • Depending on the procedure, you/your child may be given either a pain reliever and sedative, or may be given general anesthesia. This will be discussed with you by the anesthesiology team that morning. A trained anesthesia nurse or doctor will be in charge of this process.
  • You/your child may require a breathing tube during this procedure. This will be discussed with you by the anesthesia staff.
  • You/your child will receive local anesthetic at the catheter insertion site.
  • Pressures and pictures will be recorded during the procedure, as well as some blood samples drawn for lab measurements.
  • The catheters will be removed from the site once the procedure is complete.
  • Family members will receive text updates via our new EASE mobile phone app during the procedure as to the progress of the case and patient condition. This app is encrypted and helps to keep all of you/your child’s information secure.

Risks and Possible Complications

  • Bleeding/bruising at the site of catheterization
  • Arrhythmia (change in rate or rhythm of the heart)
  • Infection
  • Injury to the heart or blood vessel
  • Specific risks and complications of your/your child’s procedure will be discussed on a case by case basis with the cardiologist

After the Procedure

  • Following the procedure, you/your child will recover in the recovery room. You will be able to stay with your child during this time, however we limit access to 2 adults at a time, and require visitors be over 18 years of age. Anyone visiting under 18 years old will be asked to remain in the waiting room.
  • There may be some time before you/your child fully awakens from sedation. This timing is often patient dependent
  • You/your child will have a dressing bandage applied to the catheter insertion site. They will need to remain in bed for 4-6 hours after the procedure, often completely lying flat on their back.
  • You/your child may have mild discomfort at the catheterization site, often able to be treated with TYLENOL® or MOTRIN®.
  • You/your child will often be able to eat and drink within a few hours of the procedure, when they prove that they are fully awake.
  • Depending on the procedure performed, your child may require an overnight hospitalization. If not, they will be discharged to go home with you after the 4-6 hours. Discharge instructions will be given to you and reviewed before you or your child leaves the hospital. If you/your child needs to be admitted overnight, most discharges occur before noon the following day.
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