What is cardiac catheterization to repair congenital heart defect?

Cardiac Catheterization to Repair Congenital Heart Defect
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Cardiac catheterization to repair a heart defect in children: Overview

Cardiac catheterization can be done to fix some congenital heart defects. This is a kind of heart problem that your child is born with.

There are different kinds of heart defects. The heart may have a hole between its chambers. Or a valve or artery may not have formed the right way. In some cases, a heart valve, artery, or chamber may not have formed at all. Any of these can affect how blood flows through the heart or blood vessels.

Your doctor doesn't need to make any cuts to do this procedure. Instead, the doctor uses a thin tube called a catheter. First, the doctor puts the catheter into a blood vessel in the groin area, neck, or other place on your child's body. Then the catheter is moved through the blood vessel to the heart. Finally, the doctor puts special tools through the catheter to fix the problem. Then the catheter is removed from your child's body.

It can be scary when your child has a heart problem. It may help to learn as much as you can about your child's condition. You may also want to talk with other parents who have a child with a similar problem.

How can you care for your child after cardiac catheterization to repair a heart defect?


  • Allow your child to slowly become more active. Have your child rest as much as needed. Make sure your child gets enough sleep at night.
  • Your child should not ride a bike, play running games or contact sports, or take part in gym class until your doctor says it is okay. This may be for several days. It is okay for your child to walk and play with other children or play with toys.
  • Until your doctor says it is okay, your child should not do activities that could cause a blow to the chest, such as wrestling or playing catch with a ball.
  • Until the doctor says it is okay, your child should avoid lifting anything that would make your child strain. This may include heavy milk containers, a heavy backpack, or a medium-sized pet.
  • Your doctor will tell you when your child can go back to school or day care. Your child will probably have to spend at least 1 day at home.
  • For about 1 week, keep your child away from large crowds and people that you know have a cold or the flu. This lowers your child's chance of getting an infection.


  • Your child can eat a normal diet. If your child's stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after the procedure. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call your doctor.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart any medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take pain medicine exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it to your child as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think the pain medicine is making your child sick to the stomach:
    • Have your child take the medicine after meals (unless the doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your child's doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, be sure your child takes them as directed. Your child should not stop taking them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If your child takes a blood thinner, be sure to get instructions about how to give this medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.
  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with their medicine.

Care of the catheter site

  • For the first day or for as long as your doctor recommends, keep a bandage over the spot where the catheter was put in.
  • You can put ice or a cold pack on the catheter site for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Do this every few hours. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Your child can shower 1 to 2 days after the procedure. Avoid soaking the catheter site in water until the area is healed. This includes keeping your child out of bathtubs and swimming pools.
  • Watch for bleeding from the site. A small amount of blood on the bandage can be normal.
  • If your child is bleeding, have your child lie down and press on the area for 15 minutes to try to make it stop. If the bleeding does not stop, call your child's doctor or seek immediate medical care.

How do you prepare for your child's cardiac catheterization to repair a heart defect?

Procedures can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Talk to your child about the procedure. Tell your child that it will help make your child's heart healthier. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • Ask if the hospital has child life specialists. They can help you and your child understand your child's health condition, prepare for the surgery, and get emotional support.
  • Ask if a special tour of the surgery area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. Your child may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the procedure. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.

The day before the procedure

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's procedure and answer any questions.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before the procedure. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

After cardiac catheterization to repair your child's heart defect: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child is bleeding a lot from the catheter site.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Your child has severe pain where the catheter was put in, or the area becomes cold, pale, blue, tingly, or numb.
  • Your child has swelling and a lump that is getting bigger under the skin at the catheter site.
  • Your child is sick to the stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • Your child has pain that does not go away after you give your child pain medicine.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if your child has any problems.

After cardiac catheterization to repair a heart defect in children: Overview

A congenital heart defect is a problem with how a child's heart formed. The doctor repaired your child's heart defect by putting a thin tube, called a catheter, into the heart through a blood vessel. The catheter may have been put into a blood vessel in the groin, neck, or other place on your child's body.

Your child may have a bruise or a small lump where the catheter was put in (the catheter site). The area may feel sore for a few days after the procedure. Your child may need more sleep than usual for a few days.

This procedure can be stressful for you and your child. Your child's recovery will depend on the type of heart defect your child had. Your child may need more than one procedure or surgery to repair the problem. And your child may need to take medicines and see a heart doctor throughout life.

What happens on the day of your child's cardiac catheterization to repair a heart defect?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the procedure may be canceled. If the doctor told you to have your child take any medicines on the day of the procedure, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
  • Have your child take a bath or shower before you come in. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
  • Your child may brush their teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
  • Be sure your child has something that's a reminder of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by an anesthesia provider.
  • The procedure will take at least 1 hour. In some cases, it may take several hours.
  • After the procedure, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery room staff will monitor your child's condition. The doctor will talk to you about the procedure.
  • Pressure will be applied to the area where the catheter was put in the blood vessel. Then the area may be covered with a bandage or a compression device. This will prevent bleeding. Nurses will check the area often.
  • If the catheter was put in your child's groin, your child will need to lie still and keep their leg straight for up to a few hours.
  • Your child may have a bruise or a small lump where the catheter was put in the blood vessel. This is normal and will go away.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.