Children's Hospital Colorado
Heart institute
Heart institute

Cardiac Catheterization for Children in the Heart Institute

At the Heart Institute at Children's Hospital Colorado, we perform two types of cardiac catheterizations for children (commonly known as "heart caths"): diagnostic and interventional. Diagnostic catheterization is used to run a variety of heart tests, and interventional catheterization is used to make repairs to the heart.

Why choose Children's Colorado for pediatric heart catheterization?

Our heart research as well as these types of procedures have led to less invasive ways to fix heart disease, quicker recovery time and less risk when compared to more invasive heart procedures. We perform more than 800 heart catheterizations each year at our Heart Institute, and many defects, such as congenital heart disease in children, that once required open-heart surgery can now be corrected in the cardiac cath lab. Over the last several years, our cardiologists have led the way in the use of minimally invasive cardiac catheters to reach and repair heart problems in kids.

Diagnostic pediatric heart catheterization

A diagnostic cardiac catheterization is used to test the heart to give us a better understanding of how each unique heart works. Three procedures are usually done during every heart catheterization:

  1. Recording blood pressures in different chambers of the heart and blood vessels
  2. Evaluating oxygen content in the blood within each chamber of the heart
  3. Performing an angiography

What is an angiography?

An angiography is done by injecting a contrast agent (dye) into the body through a catheter (a small hollow tube that is similar to IV tubing). An x-ray movie is taken as the contrast moves through the heart. The purpose of an angiography test is for the cardiologist to see the flow of blood through and around the heart and determine if there are abnormalities or blockages. The cardiologist will also be able to see how the heart muscle is contracting and how the valves are working.

Interventional cardiac catheterization for children

The purpose of an interventional cardiac catheterization is to fix a defect in the heart. The cardiologist will first perform most of the diagnostic techniques listed above, and then continue with corrective procedures that could include:

  • Balloon Valvuloplasty: using a catheter (a long, skinny hollow tube) with a balloon at the tip that is inflated to open a narrowed heart valve
  • Balloon Angioplasty: using a catheter with a balloon at the tip that is inflated to open narrowed blood vessels
  • Stent Placement: inserting a stent (a small wire mesh tube) on a catheter with a balloon at the tip; the stent expands with the inflation of the balloon and is then able to support narrow blood vessels after the balloon is removed
  • Arrhythmia Ablation: a cardiac ablation procedure can correct an arrhythmia by inserting a catheter into heart chambers to eliminate the sources of heart irregularities; many times this is done together with EP studies.
  • Septal Closures: using devices that collapse to pass through a catheter (and are then reformed when pushed out of the catheter) to close holes within the heart wall
  • Heart Valve Placement: placing an artificial valve in the heart by collapsing it and passing it through a catheter; the valve is then reformed out of the catheter within the heart
See why our outcomes make us one of the top heart hospitals

Children's Colorado in the news


This Boy Climbed Mt. Sherman Only a Couple of Months After a Heart Procedure

November 19, 2018

Beau was diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta, a congenital heart defect. About three months after his procedure at Children's Colorado, he climbed Mt. Sherman: his first 14er.