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Cardiology clinics


Most children we treat will not need invasive interventions or surgery to manage their heart conditions and will be monitored in cardiology clinics, where they will have regular contact with our paediatric cardiologists and specialist nursing staff. The staff will monitor their condition, check their treatments and advise on the lifestyle choices best suited to them.

If your child does need surgery or cardiac catherisation your cardiologist will talk to you about this in clinic. Please see the links below for more information.



Planning for surgery?  Click here for more information.

Planning for cardiac catheterisation?  Click here for more information.


Why do I have to come to clinic?

If your child is a new patient, their GP or another hospital consultant may have referred them to assess their heart.  Usually the first clinic they attend will allow a cardiologist to make a diagnosis and consider what treatment, if any, is best for the child. A series of tests will be carried out by cardiac physiologists /assistant technical officers to provide information for the cardiologist's diagnosis.  The clinics provide the opportunity for you to meet with your child's clinicians  ask any questions you may have about your child's condition and treatments and discuss any particular issues or worries arising from your child's condition. 

Existing patients are reviewed regularly to make sure their cardiac condition is well managed and they are receiving the right levels of treatment and care. If you are not sure why your child has been sent a cardiology appointment, please discuss the referral with your child's GP or current consultant.

What will happen in a routine cardiology clinic?

Your child will initially be seen by the outpatient nurse who will record their weight, height, blood pressure and oxygen saturations.  They will then be assessed by the consultant or a specialist trainee, who will decide whether any further investigations such as a chest X-ray or cardiac physiology tests such as echocardiogram or an electrocardiogram (ECG) are performed by a cardiac physiologist.

How do these work?

A variety of tests will be performed to get a clear picture of what is causing the symptoms.

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a simple test where sticky patches called electrodes are put on the patient's arms, legs and chest. These are connected by wires to an ECG recording machine that picks up the electrical signals that make your heart beat. This electrical activity is recorded and printed onto paper.  This test helps inform your cardiologist about the electrical function of your heart.
  •  Echocardiography is similar to the ultrasound scan that a mother has whilst pregnant. An echocardiogram shows the heart structures in considerable detail. This enables the clinician to determine what is present and the appropriate treatment.
  • Pacemaker check - if your child has a pacemaker, you may be seen in a specialist pacemaker clinic. The pacemaker will be checked by senior cardiac physiologists and other tests will be carried out if deemed necessary by the consultant present.
  • Sometimes a child may be sent for a chest X-ray, particularly if they have undergone any recent cardiac surgery.

There are a number of other tests that a clinician may ask to be carried out, at a later date. These can include:

  • Exercise Test - where the child is monitored whilst exercising on a treadmill.
  • Ambulatory event monitoring - when a child has a portable monitor that will record infrequent events over a period of time. These monitors will be worn whilst the child is in a normal home environment. The tape will be returned to the hospital and analysed.
  • Virtual pacemaker clinic - if your child has a pacemaker you may be given a monitor to take home with you, which you can use to send us downloads of the pacemaker activity without the need for a hospital visit. If this is possible, a cardiac physiologist will discuss this with you soon after the implant. 

How long will it take?

This will depend on the number of tests your child may need.  An ECG will take approximately 15 minutes, and an echocardiogram approximately 20 minutes or longer.  An exercise test takes about 40 minutes.  Including the time taken to see the consultant and the nursing team you should allow at least two and a half hours to be seen.

If you are returning to the hospital at a later date, you will probably not see the consultant. The appointment will be to see a physiologist to have a test performed and therefore should not take as long.

We do try to consolidate as many tests into the same appointment as possible to reduce hospital visits. Sometimes this may not be possible, but please contact us if you have any problems coming to the hospital.

Who will I meet?

You will meet the outpatients' nurses and the cardiac physiologist, who will do the ECG and echocardiogram.  You will also meet our radiology team if a chest X-ray is required.  A consultant will always be present at the clinic although you may be seen by one of the specialist trainees.  This is a teaching hospital where we train doctors to become consultant cardiologists.  Your child will be discussed with the consultant during your consultation, and they will be available for you to talk to if you have further questions or concerns about your child.

What if my child is anxious or worried about tests?

Staff in the Children's Hospital are used to helping children overcome their anxiety so we will do our best to allay any anxiety through play.  A TV programme or DVD for distraction may help and we have the assistance of a play specialist when necessary.  Occasionally a small amount of sedation may be used, which would usually require a short stay admission to the ward, but this is unusual. Parents are present whilst non-invasive tests are carried out such as ECG's and echocardiograms.

Will I get the test results straight away?

Yes, your consultant will discuss the results of any tests during your visit.  Occasionally it is necessary to share the results with colleagues within the team to agree a treatment plan. However, if you come back for a test with a physiologist, they will be unable to give any diagnoses without the consultant seeing the test first.

What if I have more questions when I get home?

You can contact your cardiac nurse specialist who will be able to find the answers for you, or you can speak to your child's GP who may be able to help with more general queries.

What if I am worried about my child between appointments?

You should consult your GP in the first instance if you think your child is unwell.  If you have general concerns, for instance questions regarding any restriction on lifestyle choices, our cardiac nurse specialist team will be able to answer many of these issues.

Do I have to come to Bristol if I don't live there?

We have outreach clinics throughout the south-west and most patients are seen locally by a visiting consultant from Bristol. Clinics are carried out  at Truro, Plymouth, Torbay, Exeter, Barnstaple, Taunton, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Bath and Swindon. These are attended at least once a month by specialist paediatric cardiologists from the unit.

Who will support me in the community?

If your child is diagnosed as a baby, your midwife will continue to support you until your child is 8 weeks of age and will then transfer you to your health visitor or GP.  Older patients are supported by their local GP and sometimes a local hospital team if they live outside Bristol.

The cardiac nurse specialist team is available for additional support and advice and can be contacted on 0117 342 8286 or 0117 342 8578 (Mon-Fri 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.)  For non-urgent queries you can contact your consultant's secretary: see our Meet the Team section for contact details.

There are a number of external support organisations that you may also find helpful.  These are detailed in our Patient and Family Information section, together with a range of patient information leaflets and other useful resources.