How Should We Prepare for a Cardiac Catheterization?
Your cardiologist will talk with you about how to prepare for the procedure and:
Give you instructions about when your child should stop eating and drinking (usually
6-8 hours before the procedure for food and 4 hours for clear liquids such as water,
apple juice, and broth).
Tell you which medicines your child should continue taking.
Discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure.
If your child is old enough to understand, talk about what will happen before,
during, and after the cardiac catheterization. Use words your child can understand
and let your child ask questions.
What Happens During a Cardiac Catheterization?
A cardiac catheterization is done in a type of operating room called a catheterization
lab. There will be an area close by where you can wait until the procedure
In a cardiac catheterization:
An intravenous (IV, into a vein) line is put in to give medicines and
through a vein. This special dye helps the cardiologist see the heart's
vessels, valves, and chambers more clearly.
A sedative is given through the IV. This lets your child sleep during the procedure.
Small sticky patches (electrodes) are placed on the chest. They're attached to
an electrocardiograph (ECG) monitor, which checks the heartbeat throughout the procedure.
The area where the catheter will go in (usually the groin) is shaved (if necessary)
and cleaned. The area is sometimes numbed with an injection of medicine.
A sheath (like a tube about the size of a coffee straw) is inserted into a blood
The cardiologist gently guides a catheter through the sheath and blood vessel
to the heart. A type of X-ray called
lets the cardiologist guide the catheter to where it needs to be.
The cardiologist does the test or procedure.
The catheters and sheath are removed and the site is bandaged.
Your child moves to the recovery area, where you can join him or her.
What Happens After Cardiac Catheterization?
Your child will be watched closely for several hours after the catheterization.
Your child will need to stay lying down with that leg straight until the doctor says
it's OK to get up, usually 4–6 hours.
The doctor will also talk to you about:
when your child can eat and drink
continuing medicines your child was on before the procedure or starting new ones
when to remove the bandage
if your child should get up and move if you have a long trip home
when your child can bathe
when your child can return regular activities, school, and sports
How Can I Help My Child at Home?
Take the bandage off as instructed by the cardiologist, usually the day after the
catheterization. Wetting the sticky parts of the bandage will help it come off. Then,
dry the area and put a small adhesive bandage over the place where the catheter went
Gently wash the area with soap and water at least once a day. Then, cover it with
a new adhesive bandage.
For about 2–3 days, your child should take sponge baths or short showers so that
the area where the catheter went in does not get too wet. He or she should avoid baths,
hot tubs, and swimming, and not use any creams, lotions, or ointments on the area.
Are There Any Risks From Cardiac Catheterization?
Cardiac catheterizations are generally safe procedures. It's normal for the area
where the catheter went in to be bruised, sore, or slightly swollen for a couple of
More serious problems are uncommon, but can happen. These include:
allergic reaction to the medicines or contrast material
long-term problems from radiation from the X-rays
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Call your cardiologist if your child has:
bleeding where the catheter went in
swelling or redness that gets worse where the catheter went in
numbness or weakness of the leg or arm where the catheter went in