If your child needs a heart catheterization, there’s no better place for that procedure than Boston Children’s Hospital. At Boston Children’s, your child will be cared for by one of the largest and most experienced pediatric cardiac catheterization programs in the world. Our six dedicated catheterization specialist physicians perform more than 1,500 heart catheterization procedures each year.
For more than 20 years, our program has led efforts to develop and improve innovative catheterization procedures. We’ve created new approaches to common problems, like holes in the heart and narrowed valves. These problems can often be treated by catheterization, rather than open-heart surgery. We also specialize in treating rare, life-threatening problems that require extremely nuanced technical skills. Examples include combined catheter and medical treatment of pulmonary vein stenosis, innovative catheter and surgical approaches to multiple left heart obstructions, and replacement of pulmonary valves using only catheters in patients who have already had operations for Tetralogy of Fallot.
About Cardiac Catheterization
Cardiac catheterization is a non-surgical procedure that is used to diagnose and treat many heart conditions.
How it works
By threading a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in your child’s groin or upper arm, the catheterizer can steer the tube into her heart to take blood samples, take pictures, and even deliver treatment devices. This can be done painlessly (through the use of anesthesia) and without stitches or an incision to heal.
By using the catheter to deliver different tools to the heart, doctors can:
- closely observe your child’s heart structure
- measure blood pressures at specific locations within the heart
- deliver radio waves to sever abnormal electrical connections
- close holes
- expand narrowed passages
- open new passages where needed
The uses of cardiac catheterization have grown tremendously over the last 10 years, especially in treating congenital heart disease. The catheterization program at Boston Children's Hospital has the tools, dedicated expertise and integration with other programs necessary to successfully treat the full range of congenital heart problems in children and adults.
We handle every type of intervention in use today, including:
- valve dilations (balloon valvuloplasty)
- blood vessel dilations (balloon angioplasty and stent placement)
- closure of holes in the heart (transcathteter atrial and ventricular septal defect devices)
- patent ductus arteriosus
- closure of abnormal blood vessels (patent ductus arteriosus or collateral occlusion)
- sampling of heart muscle tissue (myocardial biopsy)
- cryoablation: the use of intense cold to destroy the sources of abnormal electrical signals, which can cause the heart to beat irregularly
- radiofrequency ablation
Cardiologists can often understand the structure of your child’s heart by using non-invasive imaging tests, such as ultrasound (echocardiograpy) and cardiac MRI. In some cases, certain parts of the heart or circulation are best seen by introducing a catheter into the structure itself. In addition to taking pictures from inside these structures, the catheterization procedure allows the cardiologist to directly measure pressures in different parts of the heart. Because the heart is a pump, measuring the pressures in the pump can be very important in understanding a heart disease, guiding treatment and assessing response to treatment.
Video: How catheterization works
Peter Lang, MD, is a Boston Children’s cardiologist who specializes in cardiac catheterization. Here he describes how a catheterization is performed and why.