Catheterization is a minimally invasive method of evaluating and treating heart problems using small tubes called catheters that are inserted into veins and arteries to reach the heart.

At the Frank S. and Mary Jane Ryburn Heart Institute Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and The Pogue Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, the Children’s Health℠  medical staff diagnoses and treats heart problems through the less-invasive procedure known as catheterization. Small tubes, called catheters, are inserted into the veins and arteries to the heart. More than 800 catheterization procedures will be performed at Children’s Health in 2010.

Cardiac catheterization uses X-rays to create images of the heart. Often a radiographic dye is injected through a catheter that has been placed in the heart or major blood vessels. Additionally measurements of pressures and oxygen levels within the heart chambers and veins and arteries are taken to assess the function of the heart and lungs.

This method is useful for diagnosing many forms of congenital heart defects and reevaluating previously repaired heart defects. A specialized device may also be used to obtain biopsies of the heart muscle to detect the rejection of a transplanted heart.

Most cardiac catheterization procedures are performed while the patient is asleep, and when necessary, sedative medications are administered to keep the patient comfortable and relaxed. Procedures also may require general anesthesia that is provided and monitored by a pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist.

Diagnostic catheterizations are used to determine the specific type of defects present, the need for surgery and the best treatment course for each patient.

Common catheterization treatment procedures, also known as interventions, include balloon dilation of narrowed heart valves, balloon dilation of narrowed arteries or veins, and insertion of stents that help to open narrowed blood vessels. We use Amplatzer, Helex and Cardioseal devices to close holes between the upper and lower chambers of the heart (ASD and VSD) and the Amplatzer PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) device. If appropriate, these types of catheterizations can prevent the need for open heart surgeries, resulting in less pain for the patient and shorter hospital stays.

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