Cardiac catheterisation is a highly specialised procedure performed under general anaesthetic. It is performed by a paediatric cardiologist who has had further sub-speciality training in this field. During this procedure a catheter (long, thin flexible tube) is advanced from a vein or an artery (usually at the top of the leg) into the heart under x-ray guidance. The procedure is used in certain heart conditions for diagnostic purposes but is also used to perform “keyhole” surgery in certain conditions.

Some children may require a cardiac catheter to close small holes in their heart with specialised devices. Occasionally children may have heart valves that don’t open probably (stenotic valves) and these can be opened by a specialised catheter with a balloon on the end. Some children may have narrowing in their lung artery or aorta (main body artery) and these can be opened by inserting a Stent (a little metal tube) by means of a catheter. There are even specialised heart valves that can be implanted by means of a catheter procedure. The highly specialised “keyhole” nature of this procedure means that certain heart conditions can be fully treated without open heart surgery thereby avoiding the need for cardiac bypass and long recover time.

All cardiac catheter procedures are performed at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead under the care of a highly specialised team of Interventional cardiologists, cardiac anaesthetists, Cath lab nurses, cardiac physiologists, and specialised radiographers. Most children undergoing cardiac catheter procedures will spend one night in hospital after the procedure, although some children may even be discharged on the same day of the procedure. Your child will be able to return to normal activities usually within 1 week.

If your cardiologist recommends your child should have a cardiac catheter, they will refer your child to one of the interventional cardiologists who then meet you and your child before the procedure to discuss the procedure in detail, go through the consent procedure and provide you reading material regarding the procedure to take home with you. Your child will then be added to the waitlist and prioritised according to the urgency of the procedure. You will see the interventional cardiology team about 6-8 weeks after your procedure for follow up and then be referred to your usual cardiologist for ongoing care.