What to Expect When Your Child Needs Pediatric Heart Testing
If your pediatrician has recommended that your child receive heart testing, it's important to understand what to expect. Here are some of the different types of pediatric heart testing, what they involve, and how to prepare your child for the experience.
This test, which is non-invasive, utilizes sound waves to generate a comprehensive image of your child's heart. During an echocardiogram, the technician will apply gel to your child's chest and use a wand-like device to capture images of their heart while they lie on a table. The test is painless and generally takes around half an hour to complete.
Another non-invasive test, an ECG measures electrical activity in your child's heart. During the test, your child will lie down while several electrodes are attached to their arms, legs, and chest. The test typically takes several minutes to complete and is completely painless.
If your pediatrician suspects that your child has an irregular heartbeat, they may order a Holter monitor. This test involves your child wearing a small device that continuously records their heart rate for a day or two. The device is worn under their clothing and can be removed for bathing/showering. The test is painless but may be uncomfortable for some children.
In some cases, your child's pediatrician may recommend a cardiac catheterization to diagnose or treat heart conditions. During this test, a catheter — a small tube — is placed into a blood vessel in the arm or leg and carefully navigated to reach the heart. The catheter can be utilized to measure blood pressure within the heart, take tissue samples, or even treat some heart conditions. This test may require sedation or anesthesia, and your child may need to stay in the hospital for a day or two while they recover.
A stress test is a test that evaluates the performance of your child's heart during exercise without the need for invasive procedures. Your child will be required to run on a treadmill or use a stationary bike while their heart rate and blood pressure are closely monitored. The test can take about an hour, depending on how long your child is able to exercise.
Dealing with a child's heart condition can be a daunting experience. However, with the right information and support, you can feel prepared to help your child navigate the testing process. Always speak with your pediatrician or a pediatric cardiologist if you have questions or concerns. They can help alleviate any fears or anxieties you may have and provide you with the resources and information you need to support your child. For more information on pediatric heart testing, contact a professional near you.