Possible Risks Of Heart Catheterization:

Cardiac Catheterizations are performed on may children and very few problems are encountered. However, it is important that you know the general nature and extent of the risks so that you can give informed consent.

  • Clot Formation Clot formation in the vein or artery in which the catheter was inserted. A clot in the vein can be associated with swelling or inflammation of the limb and rarely with dislodgment of the clot which may then float to the lung, (Pulmonary Embolus). A clot in the artery may be associated with coolness and discoloration of the extremity and loss of pulses. If the blood flow to the leg is significantly decreased, medication may be given to dissolve the clot, or a minor operation may be needed to remove the clot.
  • Arrhythmia The catheter touching the inside of the heart can cause irregular heartbeats to occur. These are usually minor and go away once the catheter is removed from that area of the heart, however, occasional medications may be required or a brief DC electrical impulse delivered across the chest to restore normal rhythm.
  • Perforation Rarely, the catheter could penetrate the wall of the heart or a blood vessel. Such a perforation will usually seal itself, however, if an accumulation of blood occurs around the heart it may need to be removed with a syringe and needle (Pericardial Tap), or an operation.
  • Infection Rarely, infection could occur at the catheterization site or in the blood stream. If your child develops a fever within a week of the catheterization, check with your pediatrician to rule out infection.
  • Bleeding Blood loss during the catheterization procedure is usually minimal, however, excessive blood loss may necessitate transfusion with blood or blood products.
  • Death Death has occurred in less than 1% of cases and is usually secondary to one of the above complications.
  • Contrast Reactions Adverse reactions to contrast material (dye) have been reported, but are extremely rare in children.
  • Medication Reactions adverse reactions to the sedation medication or local anesthetic agent have been reported.
  • “Blue Spell” If your child has a heart defect in which there is less than normal blood flow to the lungs, it is possible that the catheter touching inside the heart could induce a “Blue Spell”. Should this occur medications will be given to reverse the episode.
  • Neurologic A cerebrovascular accident (stroke) may rarely occur secondary to embolization of air, clot, or catheter fragments to the brain. Very rarely a weakness (usually temporary) of the arm may occur due to stretching of nerves, related to positioning on the procedure table.

If you have any questions about the test you should talk with the nurse coordinator or your Pediatric Cardiologist before the test begins.