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How do I care for my child’s puncture site after a cardiac catheterization?

A heart catheterization, or “cardiac cath,” is a procedure where a physician inserts a thin tube called a catheter into a blood vessel and threads it to the heart. Although a cardiac catheterization is an invasive procedure, it is a very safe one.

After the procedure, your child will typically go home with an adhesive bandage or a small dressing where the catheters were inserted. You can replace these the next day unless they become wet or saturated. When replacing, look at the catheterization site:

  • Some bruising is typical and should resolve in about a week.
  • There may be a small lump that can be felt, but it should not be larger than the size of a dime.
  • Stitches are not usually placed; rather you should see one or two small puncture sites, like a snake bite.
  • The area around this site should not be excessively red.
  • There may be a small amount of clear drainage that may be slightly blood-tinged, but there should not be any pus coming out.

If you are concerned about how the site looks, see your pediatrician or cardiologist at the first opportunity.

Avoid having your child sit in a bathtub or swim for 72 hours, until the site has developed a scab. Showers are okay.

If there is significant bleeding, place pressure with your fingertips slightly above the entry site for a few minutes and then slowly release pressure. If it does not stop, continue to place pressure and call your pediatrician, cardiologist, or emergency medical services.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.