• Pediatric Interventional Procedures

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    In the past 25 or so years, treatment of congenital heart disease has been revolutionized by the introduction of less invasive procedures. When you think of repairing a heart defect, your first thought may be open-heart surgery. Prior to the 1980s, surgery was indeed the only available treatment option. Today, children who are born with heart defects still may undergo surgery, but some defects can be corrected using what are called interventional procedures – use of thin, flexible tubes called catheters to make repairs to the heart and blood vessels.

    During an interventional procedure, a cardiologist (called an interventional cardiologist) wwith special training in the use of catheters inserts a catheter through a small puncture site in the skin and advances it through a blood vessel to the heart. Once the catheter is in the desired position, it can be used to take diagnostic images of the heart and blood vessels or deliver treatments. Increasingly, hospitals are equipped to perform hybrid procedures, where heart defects can be corrected through a combination of interventional procedures and surgery.

    Learning more about interventional procedures can help you better understand and discuss treatment options with your pediatric interventional cardiologist. Please see More on Pediatric Interventional Treatments below for more detailed information about these procedures.

  • More on Pediatric Interventional Treatments

    Catheter-Based Valve Implantation

    A normal human heart has four valves that direct blood flow through the heart, making sure that blood travels in one direction. Many forms of congenital heart disease – disease that is present at birth – involve the pulmonary valve, which connects the heart to the blood vessels on the lungs. Many patients with this form of congenital heart disease require some form of open-heart surgery in which a tube is placed across this area to allow blood to freely pass to the lungs.

    Closing Holes in the Heart

    Closing Holes in the Heart - Atrial Septal Defects - Ventricular Septal Defects

    Fetal Interventions

    In some cases, heart defects can be corrected or controlled before a baby is even born. These fetal interventions can, at times, improve the chances for survival for a baby with a congenital heart defect or reduce the number of surgeries that child may need once born.

    Hybrid Procedures

    As technology has advanced, so has the ability to treat many types of congenital heart disease in a hospital’s catheterization lab, rather than requiring open-heart surgery. In a catheter-based procedure, a thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into the arteries or veins and guided to the heart to deliver treatment.

    Opening Narrow Valves (Valvuloplasty)

    If one of the four valves in the heart is narrow (stenotic), the heart can have difficulty passing blood through it. This can cause excessive strain on the heart. In many situations, a narrow valve can be opened using an interventional procedure—one performed using thin tubes (called catheters) that are inserted in a blood vessel to deliver treatments.

    Preparing your Child for a Heart Catheterization

    Preparing your child for a cardiac catheterization procedure (often called “cath”) ideally should begin well in advance of the day of the procedure. Depending on the age of your child, it may be helpful to discuss the procedure with him or her for reassurance and to allow your child to feel as comfortable as possible prior to the procedure.

    Vessel Occlusion (Closing Off Unwanted Vessels)

    Sometimes treatment for congenital heart disease (heart defects that are present at birth) will involve stopping blood flow through an unwanted blood vessel. The process of blocking the vessel is called occlusion. During the procedure to occlude the vessel(s), a catheter (a thin flexible tube) is inserted through a small incision site in the skin and threaded through a blood vessel to the point where the treatment will be administered. Devices such as a coil or small particles are placed to prevent blood from continuing past that point through the vessel.