Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiologists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with UofL School of Medicine, use cardiac catheterization in a child to collect information about the heart, produce videos of the blood flow through and away from the heart, and perform other procedures to fix heart conditions and defects.

The catheter is a long, thin tube that the cardiologist inserts into the body through a vein or artery. Most commonly, this is done through a small cut in the skin close to the groin, but sometimes other large vessels are used including veins in the neck.

An illustration shows cardiac catheterization in a child

Why Have a Cardiac Catheterization?

Cardiac catheterization in a child can be used to diagnose heart conditions and provide more information if known heart conditions exist. During a catheterization, cardiologists can:

  • Measure blood pressure and oxygen levels in the heart and lungs
  • See how well the heart pumps
  • Take pictures of the heart
  • View the heart’s structure
  • View the heart’s electrical system

Norton Children’s Heart Institute is the leading provider of pediatric heart care in Louisville and Southern Indiana.

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has rated Norton Children’s Heart Institute’s pediatric heart care among the best in the region. Norton Children’s has a network of outreach diagnostic and treatment services conveniently located throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

During a Cardiac Catheterization in a Child:

  • The child may need to be sedated (asleep). A specially trained pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist will administer the general anesthesia.
  • The cardiologist then threads a small, long, flexible tube (catheter) through a blood vessel until it reaches the heart and major vessels around the heart.
  • The cardiologist may inject X-ray dye through the catheter to help them see the structures in and around the heart more clearly. This can help them find and diagnose heart defects as well as heart function.
  • The cardiologist can take pressure measurements and get blood samples from the different chambers and blood vessels around the heart. These readings give detailed information about how the heart is working.
  • Sometimes, the cardiologist can find and diagnose heart conditions during the catheterization and treat them right away.
  • A heart catheterization usually takes two to five hours to complete.
  • Recovery time can vary from six hours to an overnight stay. You and your child should come to the hospital prepared to stay overnight.

Cardiac Catheterization Complications and Follow-up care

After the procedure, your child will be taken to a recovery room for observation. Depending on your child’s condition, observation may take a couple of hours or longer. Your child’s care team will talk with you about specific after-care instructions.

Cardiac catheterization in a child is generally a low-risk procedure. Minor complications happen in fewer than 5% of all cases. Each type of heart catheterization procedure has its own unique risks and complications. You will be able to ask the cardiologist performing the procedure questions about your upcoming catheterization.

Why Choose Norton Children’s Heart Institute

No other congenital heart surgery program in Kentucky, Ohio or Southern Indiana is rated higher by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons than the Norton Children’s Heart Institute Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Program.

  • Norton Children’s Hospital is a pioneer in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, performing Kentucky’s first pediatric heart transplant in 1986 and becoming the second site in the United States to perform an infant heart transplant.
  • Our board-certified and fellowship-trained pediatric cardiovascular surgeons are leaders in the field as clinicians and researchers.
  • More than 5,000 children a year visit Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, for advanced heart care.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute successfully performs more than 17,500 procedures a year.
  • The Society of Thoracic Surgeons rated Norton Children’s Heart Institute among the best in the region after studying years of our patients’ outcomes and our ability to treat a range of pediatric heart conditions, including the most severe.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute has satellite outpatient offices in Ashland, Bowling Green, Campbellsville, Elizabethtown, Frankfort, London, Madisonville, Murray, Owensboro, Paducah and Shepherdsville in Kentucky; as well as Corydon, Jasper, Madison and Scottsburg in Indiana; 28 tele-echocardiography locations in Kentucky and Southern Indiana; and six fetal echocardiography locations across Kentucky.
  • The American Board of Thoracic Surgery has awarded the cardiothoracic surgeons at Norton Children’s Hospital with subspecialty certification in congenital heart surgery.
  • The Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) is the largest dedicated CICU in Kentucky, equipped with 17 private rooms and the newest technology available for heart care.
  • Our multidisciplinary approach to pediatric heart surgery brings together our specialists in cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology, anesthesiology, cardiac critical care and other areas to create a complete care plan tailored for your child.
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