• Preparing Your Child for a Heart Catheterization

    Preparing your child for a cardiac catheterization procedure (often called “cath”) ideally should begin well in advance of the day of the procedure. Depending on the age of your child, it may be helpful to discuss the procedure with him or her for reassurance and to allow your child to feel as comfortable as possible prior to the procedure. It may be helpful for your cardiologist to explain the procedure to your child as well at a routine visit. Although a cardiac catheterization is an invasive procedure, it is a very safe one.

    Please Keep in Mind 

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    You can help yourself and your child prepare for cardiac catheterization. Dr. Dennis W. Kim offers some suggestions.

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    Dr. Dennis W. Kim explains why and how children are sedated during cardiac catheterization.

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    Dr. Dennis W. Kim explains the term NPO.
    • If your child becomes ill or has a fever prior to the procedure, you should let the hospital know as soon as possible. 
    • If your child had a cold or was placed on antibiotics within the previous two weeks before the catheterization, the hospital should know this as well.

    Sometimes the procedure will have to be delayed until your child is feeling better.

    Before the Procedure

    • Prior to the procedure, your child will have to refrain from eating and drinking. The amount of time can vary from 2 hours for clear liquids up to 6 to 8 hours for solid food or milk/formula. This is commonly referred to as N.P.O. (Nil Per Os) time and will be clarified by the hospital before the procedure. It is important to have an empty stomach prior to sedation with medicines or anesthesia. Some children may feel hungry during this time, so it is a good idea for other family members to avoid eating and drinking in front of them.
    • After arriving at the hospital, your child will be assessed by the care team and may receive medications to make him or her a little sleepy before entering the cath lab. Sometimes an IV is placed so medications or fluids can be given by vein. You will see a lot of people, including nurses, child life specialists, cardiologists and anesthesiologists. This can seem confusing, but everyone should introduce themselves and what their role is in taking care of your child. Be sure to ask questions if anything seems confusing.

    More Helpful Hints

    • Give your child a good bath the night before the scheduled procedure.
    • Bring some of your child’s favorite things: pacifiers, blankets, toys, CDs and games.
    • Bring an overnight bag in case your child needs to be hospitalized.
    • Have a backup plan for child care for your other children in case your child needs to be hospitalized after the procedure.

    The catheterization procedure typically takes 1 to 3 hours. Some of this time is devoted to making sure that your child is comfortable, initiating anesthesia (in some cases), preparing the procedure field with sterile drapes (like in the operating room), and making the local area of catheter insertion numb with medicine. 

    After the procedure is finished, some additional time is spent making sure that the sedation is wearing off, there is no continuing bleeding at the catheter insertion site(s), and that the patient is stable for return to the recovery area. For patients who will go home the same day, recovery is monitored for several hours before discharge home. Children should be able to tolerate drinking and light eating prior to going home.