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Dedicated Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) for close post-operative management

According to the WHO, cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death worldwide. Diagnostic procedures using ionizing radiation play a central role in managing these diseases and have significantly contributed to the decrease in morbidity and mortality associated with them in the last two decades. 

Almost all diagnostic imaging methods for cardiovascular diseases require radiation. They can be divided into invasive and non-invasive methods.

With invasive techniques, a catheter – a long, thin, flexible tube – is inserted into a peripheral artery and threaded to the heart. Through this catheter, a contrast media is injected into the blood stream, following which X-rays are used to take pictures of the heart’s anatomy and the arteries that bring blood to the heart muscle to assess the degree of their openness, also called patency.

This procedure, called cardiac catheterization, is the “gold standard” to evaluate the cardiac anatomy and the severity of a physiological dysfunction. It is recommended for various reasons, the most common of which is to evaluate chest pain. However, its wide usage is limited by its invasive nature.

Instead, non-invasive cardiac imaging techniques are increasingly used. These methods can delineate cardiac structures and assess coronary arteries patency and myocardial perfusion (showing how well blood flows through heart muscles) as well as their function and metabolism. Some of them use radiation and coronary computed tomography angiography, a heart imaging test that helps determine if plaque build-up has narrowed a patient’s coronary arteries. Others use non-nuclear methods, such as echocardiography, a sonogram of the heart using ultrasound, or cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, a technology that employs pulses of radio wave energy.