Interventional Cardiology & Catheterization

Interventional cardiology is a subspecialty of cardiology that utilizes catheters in the management and treatment of congenital heart disease. A catheter is a long, flexible tube which is inserted into the blood vessels and guided into the heart allowing for a closer look at the structures inside. The state-of-the-art catheterization procedures include angioplasty, endomyocardial biopsies, diagnostic catheterizations, percutaneous pulmonary valve insertions, transcatheter device placements, as well as septal defect closures.

Cardiac catheterization can be performed on children of any age, even newborns immediately after birth. The Heart Center's team of Interventional Cardiologists perform approximately 1,000 cardiac catheterizations each year.

Below you will find the following sections: 

Our Team

The team includes Section Head Alan Nugent, MBBS; Paul Tannous, MD, PhD; and, Jeremy Fox, MD. The interventional cardiology team includes advanced practice providers, cardiac anesthesiologistselectrophysiologists, catheterization technologists, and registered nurses.

Our physicians also perform interventional procedures on adults with structural heart disease at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH). Collaboration between NMH and our own Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program gives our patients seamless continuity of care, from infancy through childhood into adulthood.

Alan W. Nugent, MD

Section Head, Interventional Cardiac Catheterization

Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Paul Tannous, MD, PhD

Attending Physician, Cardiology

Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Cardiology), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Jeremy L. Fox, MD

Attending Physician, Cardiology

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Conor P. O'Halloran, MD

Attending Physician, Cardiology

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Cardiology), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Christina A. Grunwaldt, APRN-NP, FNP-BC

Advanced Practice Nurse, Interventional Cardiology

Emily Hoyt, APRN-NP

Advance Practice Provider, Interventional Cardiology

Amanda Labadie, APRN-NP

Advanced Practice Nurse, Interventional Cardiology; Manager, Cardiac Catheterization and Electrophysiology (EP) Labs

Keegan L. Marz, DNP, APRN-NP, FNP-BC

Advanced Practice Provider, Interventional Cardiology

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization (cath) is a specialized procedure in which a long, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into the blood vessels and guided into the heart, allowing a close look at the structures inside. Cardiac cath may be performed to:

  • Determine blood pressure in the heart chambers, collect blood samples from the heart or examine the arteries of the heart
  • Obtain cardiac tissue samples for biopsy (removing tissue to help obtain a diagnosis)
  • Obtain diagnostic information about the heart or its blood vessels
  • Open the atrial septum (a divider between the atrium) in congenital heart problems that causes a child to become cyanotic (blue color of the skin, lips and nail beds due to an insufficient supply of oxygen in the blood)
  • Place devices that close small holes inside the heart or intentionally block blood flow in a damaged blood vessel
  • Place wire devices, called stents, in narrowed arteries to keep them open
  • Diagnose or monitor electrical activity of the heart 

A cardiac cath can be performed on children of any age, even newborns immediately after birth.

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Collaborative Care

Each case is unique, as no two procedures are ever the same. All patients are reviewed by the entire team as well as other specialists within the Heart Center. Patients can be evaluated seamlessly with the primary cardiologist, single ventricle team, cardiologists with expertise in echocardiography, radiologists with expertise in CT/MRI, cardiac surgery, heart failure, intensivists, and cardiac anesthesia. The team reviews consultations from primary cardiologists both inside and outside of the institution. A second opinion for any form of congenital heart disease can be requested via the Priority Second Opinion Clinic.

The interventional and surgical teams collaborate to provide treatment plans that best fit the needs of the patient. Families are offered consultations with both cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology during the planning stages. Depending on the condition, there may be times when it is best to proceed with surgery or a hybrid approach that includes the interventional and surgical teams. 

The Interventional Cardiology team also works closely with other specialty areas at Lurie Children's, including Interventional Radiology, as patients increasingly require expertise in multiple areas. This is particularly important for single ventricle patients. 

Lurie Children’s is located directly next to Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital with a bridge between the hospitals enabling rapid transport of newborns such as those with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS)-intact atrial septum. The catheterization laboratory is also on the same floor as The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health, where cardiologists with expertise in fetal anatomy and physiology consult with pregnant mothers.

The Heart Center has a large Heart Failure/Heart Transplant program. Pre- and post-transplant surveillance includes catheterization. Percutaneous ventricular assist device (PVAD) capabilities are offered for those patients that require mechanical support.

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program often refers patients to the catheterization service. Procedures are performed either at Lurie Children's or at Northwestern Memorial Hospital with an adult and pediatric interventional specialist. All of our interventional providers have full privileges at NMH where we closely collaborate with their Structural Interventional team, thus ensuring continuity of care as children transition from pediatric to adult centers.

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What to Expect

During the Cardiac Cath Procedure

The cath is performed in the hospital by a specially trained cardiologist. The child is given a sedative to help them relax and possibly even sleep during the procedure. Once in the "cath lab," they lay on a table with a special x-ray machine and heart monitors nearby. A specially trained staff of nurses, technicians, and physicians monitor the child to ensure they are comfortable during the procedure.

An injection of local anesthetic is given where the catheter is to be inserted. Next, a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel — most often on the top of the leg — and is guided up the vessel towards the heart. The cardiologist uses x-rays to help visualize the movement of the catheter.

While the catheter is inside the heart, blood samples; blood flow patterns; and blood pressure measurements are taken to help evaluate the heart structure. Additionally, contrast dye is injected into the catheter and x-ray films are made of the path the dye takes. These x-ray films are taken as the cath continues which enables your child's cardiologist to review the data after the procedure. If surgery is planned, the heart surgeon can also review the data.

After the Cardiac Cath Procedure

When the cath is complete, the catheter(s) will be withdrawn from the heart and the blood vessels. Several gauze pads and a large piece of medical tape will be placed on the site where the catheter was inserted to prevent bleeding. In some cases, a small device, flat weight, or sandbag may be used to help keep pressure on the cath site to decrease the chance of bleeding.

If blood vessels in the leg were used, your child will be told to keep the leg straight for a few hours after the procedure to minimize the chance of bleeding at the cath site. The child is then taken to a unit in the hospital where they are monitored by nursing staff for several hours after the test. The length of time it takes for your child to wake up after the procedure will depend on the type of medicine given to them for relaxation prior to the test, and on their reaction to the medication.

After the test, your child's nurse will monitor their pulse and skin temperature in the leg or arm that was used for the procedure. Your child may be able to go home after a specified period, providing they do not need further treatment or monitoring. You will receive written instructions regarding care of the cath site, bathing, activity restrictions and any new medications they may need to take at home.

Depending on the results of the cardiac cath procedure, additional tests or procedures may be scheduled to gather further diagnostic information.

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Patient Education

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Our team is dedicated to identifying better diagnostic methods and therapies to continue to provide the best medical treatments for our patients. View our recent research publications: 

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Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment, please call 312.227.5109.

We now offer telemedicine consults via video or phone. Some appointments will still require you to be seen in-person, but your physician and care team will let you know if a telemedicine appointment is available.

Second Opinions

For families or providers seeking a second opinion, we offer a Priority Second Opinion Clinic.

Request a Second Opinion

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