Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure that can help your child’s doctors diagnose and treat a range of heart conditions. Duke’s pediatric cardiology program offers the full range of catheterization procedures, from the simplest to the most complex. Our pediatric cardiac catheterization team combines skill, experience, and advanced technology to help your child feel better faster.

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About Cardiac Catheterization in Children

During cardiac catheterization procedures, a small, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel (usually in the groin, but sometimes in the arm or neck), then guided to the heart. Small tools are passed through the catheter to diagnose and/or treat your child’s condition. There are two main types of cardiac catheterization procedures.

Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization
Detailed images of your child’s heart are captured, sometimes by injecting dye into the arteries. These procedures help diagnose and evaluate the severity of heart problems, including congenital heart disease, genetic heart disease, and pulmonary hypertension.  
Interventional Cardiac Catheterization
During these procedures, pediatric interventional cardiologists can close holes in the heart, open narrowed heart valves, replace valves, repair blood vessels, and more. 

Many interventions that used to require traditional open-heart surgery are now performed with catheterization procedures. Cardiac catheterization reduces the risk of complications and shortens recovery time when compared to traditional surgery. Cardiac catheterization procedures we offer include:

  • Balloon angioplasty and/or stenting of constricted or blocked veins and arteries
  • Device closure (using a metal device to close an opening) for patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and septal defects 
  • Device closure and/or coil occlusion of abnormal vessels
  • Pre-surgical evaluations for pediatric heart conditions
  • Routine biopsies to check for organ rejection in heart transplant recipients
  • Stenting PDAs in premature infants and newborns
  • Transcatheter valve replacements
  • Valvuloplasty -- widening of a narrowed valve using a balloon
Our Pediatric Cath Labs

Heart catheterizations are performed in a sterile procedure room, like an operating room, called a cardiac catheterization lab. Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center houses two pediatric cardiac catheterization labs and a specialized hybrid operating room for surgical procedures that also use catheterization techniques.

What to Expect

When you and your child arrive for a cardiac catheterization, you’ll go to a holding area where your child will be evaluated by an anesthesiologist and interventional cardiologist. Your child will be mildly sedated and transferred to one of our specialized catheterization labs where they will receive additional anesthesia and undergo the procedure. Afterward, your child will recover in a special post-anesthesia care unit. Your child may go home the same day, or they may need to stay at the hospital overnight for observation.

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Why Choose Duke

Dedicated Team of Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization Experts
Our pediatric catheterization labs are staffed by providers who are specially trained to care for children. Our team includes pediatric interventional cardiologists, anesthesiologists, nurses, cardiovascular technicians, and others who work together to ensure your child receives the highest-quality care.

Anesthesia Options to Suit Your Child
Depending on your child’s age, their type of heart disease, and the procedure performed, we offer anesthesia options from mild sedation to standard general anesthesia. 

We Offer Hybrid Procedures
Our pediatric interventional cardiologists partner with pediatric heart surgeons to offer hybrid procedures when appropriate. These replace traditional open-heart surgeries, which require large incisions and a heart-lung machine to pump blood through the child’s body. During a hybrid approach, the heart remains beating throughout the procedure. Surgeons access the heart using smaller incisions, and interventional cardiologists use a catheter to repair the problem. These techniques reduce risk and speed recovery. Duke’s specialized hybrid operating room is used for these procedures.

Pioneers in Research, Dedicated to Safety 
Duke researchers participate in important clinical trials studying new devices, how to reduce radiation exposure, and how to improve the quality of care for children undergoing heart catheterizations. We track our outcomes and contribute data to registries that evaluate and optimize safety. For example, we helped develop a pre-procedural risk assessment tool called the CRISP (Catheterization RISk score for Pediatrics) score, which we now use to assess risk in every child before their procedure.

Innovative Imaging Technology
We use the newest 3D rotational angiography and 3D technology overlay technology to guide catheter-based interventions, improve safety, and reduce the use of radiation and contrast dye in young patients.

A gold badge shows Duke has been nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties for 2023 to 2024
#2 in Nation and #1 in NC for Pediatric Cardiology and Heart Surgery

Duke Children’s is ranked the #2 pediatric cardiology program in the nation and the best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report.

This page was medically reviewed on 10/11/2022 by