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Cardiac Catheterization

The CHOC Heart Institute offers one of the few, dedicated pediatric cardiac catheterization programs in Southern California. Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure that takes place in a specialized procedure room called a catheterization laboratory. Catheterization is used by two different types of heart specialists: interventionalists and electrophysiologists.


Catheterization Laboratories at CHOC

CHOC proudly offers two state-of-the-art laboratories exclusively dedicated to this important form of cardiac diagnosis and treatment in the Tidwell Procedure Center located in our Bill Holmes Tower. Each lab is outfitted with the very latest diagnostic and treatment technologies available, with one lab serving as a “hybrid,” allowing cardiologists and surgeons to work together at the same time.

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure. The risks associated with catheterization are quite low and the tests can provide doctors with very important information that other tests cannot. It can also offer treatments for a number of different heart conditions, including congenital heart defects, acquired cardiac disease or arrhythmias.

CHOC Cath lab

Understanding Interventional Cardiac Catheterization

A cardiac interventionalist uses cardiac catheterization, rather than conventional surgery, to treat heart conditions. During a catheterization procedure, a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel (usually in the leg) and guided into the heart, allowing a close look at the structures inside. Cardiac catheterization may be recommended to help diagnose a problem. It can also be used to provide treatment. Cardiac catheterization can be done on children of any age — even newborns immediately after birth. In children, cardiac catheterization may be used by an interventional cardiologist for the following reasons:
  • To obtain diagnostic information, such as pressures and oxygen levels in various parts of the heart.
  • To better understand the heart’s anatomy in children with congenital heart problems.
  • To take cardiac tissue samples for biopsy.
  • To open the atrial septum in congenital heart problems that cause a child to become cyanotic (blue color of the skin, lips and nail beds due to an insufficient supply of oxygen in the blood).
  • To place mesh devices that close small holes inside the heart (such as with atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect).
  • To intentionally block blood flow in a blood vessel (such as with patent ductus arteriosus or pulmonary collateral vessels).
  • To place wire, mesh devices, called stents, in narrowed arteries to keep them open.
Learn more about interventional cardiology at the CHOC Heart Institute.

Understanding Electrophysiological Studies

An electrophysiologist uses cardiac catheterization as a test to better understand the heart’s electrical systems using revolutionary 3D heart mapping. This test is called an electrophysiological study. In some cases, during the study, the doctor may ablate or destroy electrical signals found in the heart that cause an arrhythmia  (irregular heartbeat) using radiofrequencies or cryoablation (very cold temperatures). This procedure is called cardiac catheter ablation.

Learn more about electrophysiology at the CHOC Heart Institute.

Knowledge is the Best Medicine

Irregular Heart Beats in Children
Anjan Batra, MD, FHRS, explains to us about irregular heart beats in children.attention.

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Cutting-edge procedures being used in caring for infants and children with heart defects/disease.

Radiation-Free Electrophysiology Procedure
CHOC Surgeon Performs Radiation-Free Electrophysiology Procedure.