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Cardinal Glennon / Services & Programs / Pediatric Cardiology / Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization

Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization

Pediatric cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure that allows a doctor to see what’s happening with your child’s heart. The procedure involves a doctor inserting a catheter - or long, flexible tube - into a blood vessel, usually in the leg, and guiding it into the heart. It is less invasive than surgery and is especially helpful in diagnosing and treating heart conditions in children.

Why Would Pediatric Catheterization Be Right for My Child? 

A number of heart problems can be diagnosed and repaired during a cardiac catheterization, including some congenital heart defects. 
The most common reasons a doctor may perform a cardiac catheterization are:
  • To gauge pressure and oxygen levels in various parts of the heart
  • To assess your child’s heart anatomy and see any congenital heart problems
  • To obtain cardiac tissue samples for biopsy
  • To place any devices, such as mesh, stents, or shunts
  • Treat holes in the heart that are the result of a congenital defect
  • To treat leaky or narrow heart valves, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and blood clots
  • To treat obstructed blood vessels or valves to increase blood flow
For more serious cases, doctors may use cardiac catheterization in conjunction with open-heart surgical procedures.

Preparing for a Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization

Before a cardiac catheterization, your child's doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with you. They will obtain written permission from you to perform the procedure.
Your child will have dietary restrictions prior to the procedure. Their doctor will review these with you when you schedule the procedure. 
Once at the hospital, we will assess your child and administer any medications needed. These will most likely be administered by IV to induce sleepiness, and help your child relax during the procedure. Our nurses, child life specialists, cardiologists and anesthesiologists will work with you directly, so feel free to ask any questions you have.

What Does the Procedure Involve?

A specially-trained cardiologist performs this procedure, and it typically takes one to three hours.
Once in the cardiac catheterization lab, your child will be helped onto an X-ray table. Two large X-ray cameras are used to view the heart from different angles. An injection of local anesthetic will be given under the skin where the catheter is inserted.  
From here, the cardiologist threads a catheter through your child’s large blood vessels and into their heart. Once in place, the doctor can use instruments to get a comprehensive look at your child’s heart and how it’s functioning.
The cardiologist may perform an angiogram as well, by injecting X-ray dye through the catheter to see important anatomic details of your child’s heart more clearly. Our specially trained staff of nurses, technicians, and doctors will monitor your child and make sure they are comfortable during the procedure.
Recovery time for a cardiac catheterization is usually quick, with a low risk of complications.

Hybrid Cardiac Catheterization Suite


SSM Health Cardinal Glennon offers the region's only pediatric hybrid cardiac catheterization suite. This innovative technology allows a cardiac interventionalist to work with a heart surgeon to diagnose and fix a heart problem in the same room during the same procedure.

Having the ability to diagnose and treat problems in one procedure means safer care, faster healing and better recovery for your child. To learn more, watch the video below, about our unique pediatric hybrid cardiac catheterization suite in St. Louis.
Our SLUCare Physician Group pediatric heart team is happy to talk with you about cardiac catheterization. Understanding the procedure is important when making health care decisions for your child. To speak with someone on our team, call 314-577-5674.

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