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Cardiac Catheterization to Repair a Congenital Heart Defect: Before Your Child's Procedure

The heart

What is cardiac catheterization?

A congenital heart defect is a problem with how a child's heart formed. The defect can affect how blood flows through the heart or blood vessels. The heart may have a hole between its chambers, or a valve or artery may not have formed the right way. Or a heart valve, artery, or chamber may not have formed at all.

Some defects can be fixed using a thin tube called a catheter. This type of procedure does not require the doctor to make a cut (incision) in your child's chest. The doctor will put the catheter into a blood vessel, usually in your child's groin. The doctor will move the catheter through the blood vessel to the heart. Then the doctor will guide special tools through the catheter to fix the heart defect.

Having a child with a heart problem can be scary. You may feel overwhelmed. Learning as much you can about your child's treatment can help you feel better. You may also want to talk with other parents who have a child with similar problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

What happens before the procedure?

Preparing for the procedure

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the procedure. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Talk to your child about the procedure. Tell your child that it will help make his or her heart healthier. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • Ask if a special tour of the operating area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. He or she may need more of your time right after the procedure, both for care and for comfort.

The day before the procedure

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's procedure and answer any questions.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before the procedure. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

Having a procedure can be stressful both for your child and for you. This information will help you understand what you can expect and how to safely prepare for the procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking, or the procedure may be cancelled. If the doctor has instructed you to have your child take his or her medicines on the day of the procedure, please have your child take the medicine using only a sip of water.
  • See that your child has bathed. Do not apply lotions or deodorant.
  • Your child may brush his or her teeth. Remind your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
  • Be sure your child has something that reminds him or her of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music. Leave any valuable items at home.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by an anesthesia provider. Your child will be asleep during the procedure.
  • The procedure will take at least 1 hour. In some cases, it may take several hours.
  • After the procedure, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery room staff will monitor his or her condition. The doctor will talk to you about the procedure.
  • Pressure will be applied to the area where the catheter was put in the blood vessel. Then the area may be covered with a bandage or a compression device. This will prevent bleeding. Nurses will check the area often.
  • If the catheter was put in your child's groin, your child will need to lie still and keep his or her leg straight for several hours.
  • Your child may have a bruise or a small lump where the catheter was put in the blood vessel. This is normal and will go away.

Going home

  • Expect your child to be sleepy. Encourage extra rest the first day. Most children become more active on the day following the procedure.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when your child can do intense exercise, such as sports, running, or physical education.
  • When you leave the hospital, you will get more information about how to take care of your child at home.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare your child for the procedure.
  • Your child becomes ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.