What is a Cardiac Catheterization Lab?

Cardiac catheterizations are procedures in which tiny equipment is inserted into the body through a catheter (tube), which is usually inserted through a large blood vessel at the top of the thigh. Once inside, the physician performing the procedure guides the catheter to the heart, watching the process on a monitor. Some patients require catheterization as a diagnostic tool, often in preparation for surgery. More frequently, though, cardiac catheterization is used to correct a wide range of heart defects.

Team members in the cardiac catheterization lab also provide electrophysiology services, which help diagnose and treat disturbances in heart rhythms. During an electrophysiology study, a specially trained pediatric cardiac specialist will induce an arrhythmia--a disturbance in the electrical activity in the heart--in order to diagnose the source of the problem, evaluate the effectiveness of medicines being used to treat heart rhythm disorders, or assess the need for surgeries or other treatments. Sometimes, treatment can begin immediately while the patient is still in the cath lab.

Children's has the only cath lab in Minnesota designed for children. The technology and equipment in the lab was specifically selected for treating young patients, whose bodies vary much more than adults' bodies in size and weight and whose cardiac conditions manifest very differently than adults' do. The cath lab is built to operating-room specifications. While rare, a catheterization patient's condition may require that physicians quickly initiate surgery without moving the patient. The technology of the cath lab allows heart surgeons to watch the procedures, especially higher-risk ones, from a variety of portable monitors. These features help optimize quality of care.

The cath lab is located near the pediatric intensive care unit at Children's - Minneapolis.