What is a heart catheterisation?
A heart catheterisation is a procedure to diagnose or treat a heart condition, although magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is now mostly used for diagnosis.
Most of the heart catheterisations we carry out are procedures to treat a condition (known as catheter interventions), such as:
device closure of atrial and ventricular septal defects
persistent arterial ducts
dilatation of narrow valves and vessels
For more information on different heart conditions and standard treatment options, please see the Children's Heart Federation website.
Performing heart catheterisations
A heart catheterisation involves placing a small plastic tube (the catheter) into one of the big blood vessels of the body (usually the groin, but sometimes from the arm or neck) and passing up to the heart. From here, we can get information about the blood flow and pressures in the different parts of the heart and blood vessels.
We may use a contrast agent (dye) to show us details of the heart and blood vessels. We can also use specialised equipment such as balloon catheters and stents to treat your child's heart condition.
During a heart catheterisation, up to 10 people are involved.
Your child will typically be given a general anaesthetic and cared for by an anaesthetist and an anaesthetic nurse.
A cardiac technician will perform checks such as blood pressure measurements and blood gas analysis.
A scrub nurse will help the cardiologist (doctor who specialises in heart problems) to have all the catheters and wires ready when needed.
Radiographers will help to optimise the quality of images taken and take care of the radiation used in the procedure.
More complex cases may need more than one cardiologist. Dr Qureshi, Dr Rosenthal and Dr Krasemann work together as a team. Our dedicated nurse practitioner, Soodevi Boolkah is actively involved in many cases and coordinates the supply for the complex procedures.
In some cases we may need to perform a heart catheterisation and surgery at the same time. This is called a hybrid procedure and is used to treat very complex congenital (present before birth) heart disease, especially in very small children. We perform an increasing number of these procedures, and have performed the highest number of these interventions on selected patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Our centre is developing this service further for various conditions.
Our catheter laboratory
Our catheter laboratory (often called the cath lab), in the Evelina Children's Hospital is one of the most modern in the world, allowing us to get as much information as possible to plan your child's care.
The cath lab is also used to carry out electrophysiological studies (EP studies), which can identify an abnormality that is causing heart rhythm disturbances. In many cases it is possible to treat this abnormality during the catheterisation. Dr Rosenthal diagnoses and treats several types of rhythm disturbances with the help of specialised equipment.
About 300 - 350 heart catheterisations are carried out every year.
Additional imaging may be carried out: