Cardiac Catheterization Procedures

Instead of requiring surgery, many conditions are treated in one of our two cardiac catheterization laboratories.

Dramatic advances in cardiac catheterization techniques allow cardiologists to treat more conditions in the catheterization laboratory than ever before.

Cardiac catheterization laboratories are special rooms with state-of-the-art equipment where cardiologists insert small catheters (plastic tubes) into small veins and arteries and advance them through the heart, following their progress with X-ray and ultrasound imaging.

Why are cardiac catheterization procedures performed?

A cardiac catheterization is used to diagnose and sometimes treat many different heart conditions.

Cardiac catheterization procedures called diagnostic catheterizations help doctors determine the best way to treat more complex conditions. The information gathered during the catheterization is used to figure out the best timing for heart surgery or to plan the operation itself.

Some children once headed for heart surgery can now be treated using a cardiac catheterization procedure called  interventional catheterization .

Catheterization procedures are less painful and have shorter recovery times than surgical treatments for the same conditions. Children are often able to go home the same day or the next morning.

Conditions that may be treated in the catheterization lab include:

Catheterization procedures can also be used to diagnose and treat a variety of heart rhythm conditions. These specialized catheter procedures are called electrophysiology (EP) studies. EP studies allow doctors to map the electrical pathways in the heart and correct abnormal or harmful ones.

Cardiac catheterization continues to advance by leaps and bounds. One new area, sometimes referred to as hybrid surgery, is the use of cardiac catheterization simultaneously with surgery to treat complex heart problems. Another new area is heart valve implantation using catheterization techniques.

What's special about the experience at Seattle Children's?

Children's was the first hospital in the Pacific Northwest to establish a team of doctors and staff dedicated to pediatric interventional catheterization and EP procedures. We have two state-of-the art catheterization laboratories. Both are equipped with the latest technology to perform the most complex catheterization procedures.

Our staff has been at the forefront of many interventional catheterization and EP procedures, such as closing holes in the heart. In 1999, 10% of all heart surgeries at Seattle Children's were for atrial septal defect, a hole in the  septum  between the upper chambers of the heart.

Cardiac catheterization has largely replaced surgery for this defect, and today less than 1% of all of Children's heart surgeries are for atrial septal defect.

Who's on the team?

Dr. Thomas Jones , director of the cardiac catheterization laboratories, is an internationally respected expert in pediatric and  congenital  cardiac catheterization.

In collaboration with Drs. Troy Johnston , Jack SalernoTerrence ChunAgustin Rubio and Steve Seslar , Dr. Jones leads a highly specialized team that works with the rest of the Heart Center staff, including other cardiologists and pediatric cardiac surgeons, cardiac nurses, radiology technicians and anesthesiologists.

The team also works with pediatric and adult cardiologists from all over the Northwest.

The cardiac catheterization team partners with biotechnology companies to develop leading-edge treatments. The team is involved in multiple clinical trials testing new devices and treatments that hold the promise of further reducing the risk and discomfort of treatment for children with congenital heart disease.