Pediatric Heart Diagnoses

If your doctor suspects your child may have a heart condition, they will refer you to a pediatric cardiologist. Pediatric cardiologists have special training to diagnose and treat heart problems in babies, children and young adults.

Your doctor may use several different tests to diagnose your child's heart condition. Some of these tests include:

  • Chest X-Ray, CT Scan or MRI
  • Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) and Holter Monitor
  • Electrophysiology (EP) Studies
  • Exercise Test
  • Fetal Echocardiogram
  • Lab tests

These tests are done at the hospital using special equipment made for children. The staff and physicians are specially trained to care for even the smallest patients. To help you and your child feel at ease, we allow parents to be with their child through as much of the testing process as possible. For many of the tests, you will be able to stay with your child the entire time. However, in some cases, you will be able to accompany child up until the test begins. We will keep you informed during the procedure and quickly reunite you with your child once the testing is complete.

Some congenital heart defects can be diagnosed before the baby is even born. At some point during your prenatal visits with your obstetrician you will have a level II ultrasound. If during that ultrasound your obstetrician suspects a heart abnormality, they will refer you to a pediatric cardiologist who will order a fetal echocardiogram. A fetal echocardiogram is a special type of ultrasound that allows doctors to diagnose heart abnormalities while the baby is still in utero. If you are pregnant and have a condition, such as diabetes, or have a family history of congenital heart defects, talk to your obstetrician.

Whether your baby is diagnosed in utero or after they are born, Sunrise Children's Hospital has the expert physicians, nurses, staff, equipment and resources to care for your child.

Pediatric Heart Treatment

Not all heart conditions require treatment, but some do. If your child requires treatment for a heart condition, your doctor will talk to you about the options. Because every patient and condition varies, therefore, a treatment plan will be made specifically for your child. The following will help explain the different treatment options.


Not all heart conditions require catheterization or surgical procedures. In some cases, the only treatment plan may be medication prescribed by your doctor. There are many different medicines available to help manage your child's condition. Please remember, it is important for your child to take the medications as prescribed by your physician. Never start or stop a medication regimen without discussing it with your doctor.

Interventional Cardiac Catheterization

Sunrise Children's Hospital is equipped with a specialized pediatric cardiac catheterization laboratory. Cardiac catheterization is a tool for observing the heart in action. The uses of the cardiac catheterization laboratory have grown tremendously over the last 10 years, especially in treating congenital heart diseases. Today, many repairs which once required surgery can now be completed in the cardiac cath lab. Some catheterization procedures are preferred over heart surgery because they are less invasive, have fewer risks and a have a decreased recovery period.

The pediatric catheterization laboratory at Sunrise Children's Hospital is staffed with experts dedicated to successfully treat a full range of congenital heart problems in children. Some of the procedures that are currently being conducted in our cath labs are:

  • Balloon - Valvuloplasty
  • Balloon - Angioplasty
  • Stent Placement
  • Closure of atrial septal defects
  • Closure of ventricular septal defects
  • Closure of patent ductus arteriosus
  • Biopsies

During an interventional cardiac catheterization a catheter is inserted through the skin into a blood vessel then guided to the heart using live x-rays. A catheter is a very narrow tube fed into a vein or artery that leads to the heart. Usually the entry site will be in the groin or upper arm area. The catheter is used to deliver different tools directly to the heart. In the cath lab doctors can:

  • Closely observe the heart structures
  • Measure blood pressure at specific locations in the heart
  • Close abnormal holes in the heart
  • Expand narrowed passages
  • Open new passages where needed

Electrophysiology Services

Children requiring electrophysiology services to treat complex heart arrhythmias (heart rhythm irregularities) can also be treated in the cath lab. Treatment options may include device implants such as pacemakers and defibrillators in infants, children and young adults.

Electrophysiology services include:

  • Pacemaker and defibrillator implants
  • Cryoablation - the use of intense cold to destroy the sources of abnormal electrical signals, which can cause an irregular heart beat
  • Radiofrequency ablations - the use of radiofrequency to destroy abnormal electrical signals
  • Comprehensive electrophysiological studies

The cardiac cath lab staff is specially trained in caring for infants, children, and young adults. We utilize anesthesia during all pediatric procedures. Our staff works hard to ensure that your child has a pain and stress free experience.


For some children, surgery may be required. Open heart surgery is necessary when the heart defect can't be repaired using a catheter procedure. Sometimes one surgery can completely repair the defect. However, in some cases, a child may need more than one surgery over the course of months and years. Sunrise Children's Hospital is the only hospital in the southwest region that performs open heart surgery. The surgical team comprised of cardiovascular surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, cardiac nurses and child life specialists work closely with the team of intensivists, nurses and support staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to care for your child after the surgery. Learn more about surgery at Sunrise Children's Hospital.

Hybrid Heart Procedures

In some case, a hybrid procedure may be used to treat your child. Hybrid procedures combine the tools and techniques used by an interventional cardiologist in a cath lab with the surgical tools and techniques of the cardiovascular surgeon. By using the tools and expertise of both these treatments, physicians are able to treat more complex congenital heart defects by combining percutaneous and surgical techniques.