What is cardiac catheterisation?

A catheter is a thin, flexible, hollow tube. Cardiac catheterisation is where a very thin plastic catheter is passed into the chambers of the heart. The catheter can also be passed into the main chambers and blood vessels of the heart & lungs.

The doctor gently pushes the catheter up the blood vessel towards the heart. Low-dose X-rays are used to monitor the progress of the catheter tip which is gently manipulated into the heart chambers (ventricles and atria). You cannot feel the catheter in the blood vessels or heart. During the procedure your heartbeat is monitored by electrodes placed on your chest which provide a tracing on an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine.

When the test is over, the catheter is gently pulled out. If it was inserted in your groin then a nurse will press over the site of insertion for about 10 minutes to prevent any bleeding.

Cardiac catheterisation tests in children

Cardiac catheterisation is commonly done to assess the heart of children and babies with certain types of congenital heart disease. A general anaesthetic is normally given to children to keep them asleep during the procedure. Examples of interventional procedures include pulmonary valvuloplasty, ASD occlusion, arterial duct closure & coarctation stenting.