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Cardiac Catheterization in Children


Cardiac catheterization is a procedure your doctor uses to see images and get information about your child's heart and blood vessels from the inside. It can also be done to repair some congenital heart defects. This is a kind of heart problem that your child is born with.

Your doctor doesn't need to make any cuts to do the procedure. Instead, the doctor uses a thin tube called a catheter. The catheter is put into a blood vessel in the groin, neck, or other place on your child's body. Then the doctor moves the catheter through the blood vessel to the heart. The doctor may use the catheter to take blood samples and measurements, such as blood pressure. A dye can be put into the catheter. The doctor can take X-ray pictures of the dye as it moves through your child's heart and blood vessels. If the doctor is going to repair a heart problem, special tools are moved through the catheter to the heart. The doctor uses these tools to repair the problem. Then the catheter is removed from your child's body.

Your child may be able to go home the same day. Your child will see the doctor for regular checkups.

It can be scary when your child has a heart problem. It can 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.

Why It Is Done

A cardiac catheterization can be used to:

  • See details of the heart structure.
  • Measure pressures in the heart chambers and see how the blood is flowing through the heart.
  • Collect samples of blood from inside the heart.
  • Inject a dye into the heart or arteries to see if there are abnormal blockages in the blood vessels or abnormalities of the heart chambers (such as defects or holes between chambers).
  • Diagnose and repair certain types of heart defects.


In a child who has a congenital heart defect, a cardiac catheterization can show how blood is flowing through the heart and how well the heart is working. Results include images and information about the heart and blood vessels from the inside. The information may include blood pressure inside the heart and the amount of oxygen in the blood.

A heart defect may be diagnosed during this procedure. Sometimes, a heart defect is treated during the same procedure or a later one. If your child has a complex heart defect, your child might need a combination of surgery and catheterization to treat it.


Current as of: September 7, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Larry A. Latson MD - Pediatric Cardiology