Catherine Avitabile, MD

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Catherine Avitabile, MD, is an attending cardiologist in the Cardiac Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Locations: Main Hospital

Appointments and Referrals: 1-800-TRY-CHOP (1-800-879-2467)


Seeing her patients’ lives improve is what drives Catherine Avitabile, MD, both in her clinical practice and in her research.

“I enjoy taking care of children with complex cardiopulmonary diseases and their families. I want to advance care and help children with congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension live the most normal, full lives possible,” Dr. Avitabile says.

Dr. Avitabile treats patients with a variety of cardiopulmonary conditions, including pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary hypoplasia, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and thoracic insufficiency syndrome — all serious problems that have, in the past, limited the ability of children with these conditions to participate in physically demanding activities.

Dr. Avitabile relishes helping her patients and their families overcome obstacles to achieve happy, healthy, active childhoods.

As a researcher, Dr. Avitabile has made contributions to the general understanding of the physiology of some of these conditions through imaging procedures, as well as investigating new treatments.

“I am active in pulmonary hypertension research in the Divisions of Cardiology and Neonatology and the Department of Surgery, as well as within the multicenter Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Network,” Dr. Avitabile says.

Treatments Dr. Avitabile has explored include not only medicines, but carefully developed exercise programs.

“My personal research program,” Dr. Avitabile says, “focuses on the impact of skeletal muscle defects on exercise performance in children with congenital heart defects and pulmonary hypertension. I am piloting exercise training programs to improve the skeletal muscle, which may in turn improve exercise performance and quality of life in our patients.”

Dr. Avitabile is delighted to be able to translate this award-winning research interest into clinical practice that directly benefits her patients.

“I am most excited by the opportunities to use exercise as an adjunct to pharmacologic therapies,” Dr. Avitabile says. ”I love opportunities to ‘prescribe’ exercise to improve functional status and quality of life in our patients and am excited by the use of wearable activity monitors to track that exercise.”

As an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Avitabile has a hand in training the next generation of pediatric cardiologists.

But perhaps the most important teaching she does is focused on her patients and their families: she sees sharing information as a critical part of treatment, and she encourages their curiosity.

“Please be empowered to ask questions,” is Dr. Avitabile’s message to patients’ families. “Please tell me if something does not make sense. Please ask me to explain it again. That is my job!”

Education and Training

Medical School

MD - Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY


Pediatrics - Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY


Pediatrics - Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY


Advanced Fellowship in Non-invasive Cardiac Imaging (Transthoracic echocardiography, Transesophageal echocardiography, and Cardiac MRI) - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

Pediatric Cardiology - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

Board Certification

Pediatric Cardiology

Titles and Academic Titles

Attending Cardiologist

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics - Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Departments and Services




Lawrence KM, Berger K, Herkert L, Franciscovich C, O'Dea CLH, Waqar LN, Partridge E, Hanna BD, Peranteau WH, Avitabile CM, Hopper RK, Rintoul NE, Hedrick HL. Use of prostaglandin E1 to treat pulmonary hypertension in congenital diaphragmatic hernia. J Pediatr Surg. 2018 Oct 5;. PMID: 30442461 


Poletto E, Mallon M, Stevens R, Avitabile CM. Imaging review of vascular rings and pulmonary sling.  J Am Osteopath Coll Radiol.  2017;6:5-14.


Avitabile CM*, Whitehead KK*, Fogel MA, Kim DW, Kim TS, Rose JD, Keller MS, Fu GL, Harris MA. Holodiastolic Flow Reversal at the Descending Aorta on Cardiac Magnetic Resonance is Neither Sensitive Nor Specific for Significant Aortic Regurgitation in Patients with Congenital Heart Disease.  Pediatr Cardiol. 2016;37:1284-9.

Harris MA*, Avitabile CM*, Fu GL, Kim DW, Fogel MA, Whitehead KK. Accuracy and Internal Consistency of Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Measuring Branch Pulmonary Artery Flows in Patients with Conotruncal Anomalies and Branch Pulmonary Artery Stents.  Am J Cardiol. 2016;117:1160-6.

Avitabile CM, Harris MA, Whitehead KK. High-resolution, contrast-enhanced cardiac magnetic resonance detects an intracardiac thrombus in a Fontan patient. World J Pediatr Congenit Heart Surg. 2016;7:404-6.

Avitabile CM, Harris MA, Chowdhury D. Cardiac magnetic resonance characterizes myocarditis in a 16-year-old female with Lyme disease.  World J Pediatr Congenit Heart Surg. 2016;7:394-6.


Avitabile CM, Goldberg DJ, Zemel BS, Brodsky JL, Dodds K, Hayden-Rush C, Whitehead KK, Goldmuntz E, Rychik J, Leonard MB.  Deficits in bone density and structure in children and young adults following Fontan palliation.  Bone. 2015;77:12-16. 

Avitabile CM, Leonard MB, Brodsky JL, Whitehead KK, Ravishankar C, Cohen JW, Rychik J, Goldberg DJ.  Usefulness of insulin-like growth factor-1 as a marker of heart failure in children and young adults after the Fontan palliation procedure.  Am J Cardiol. 2015;115:816-20.

Avitabile CM, Mercer-Rosa L, Ravishankar C, Rome JJ, Gaynor JW, Spray TL, Cohen MS.  Experience with biventricular intervention for neonates with mitral valve abnormalities in the setting of critical left heart obstruction.  Ann Thorac Surg. 2015;99:877-83.



Whitehead KK, Avitabile CM,  Goldberg DJ, Leonard MB, Wei A, Tang E, Paridon SM, Yoganathan AP, Fogel MA.  Relationship between leg lean mass Z-score and cardiac output at exercise as measured by exercise cardiac magnetic resonance imaging.  Poster presentation by Whitehead at Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance/EuroCMR Joint Scientific Sessions. Nice, France.  February 2015.

Posters and Presentations

Lectures by Invitation


Avitabile C. Considerations for the Primary Care Provider of the Child with Congenital Heart Disease. Presented at: Capital Health Hospital Department of Pediatrics Monthly Meeting; 2016 Sep 23.


Avitabile C. Extra-cardiac Complications of the Fontan Circulation. Presented at: Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Cardiology Congenital Heart Disease Conference at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; 2015 Jun 25; Philadelphia, PA.

Avitabile C. Advances in Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. Presented at: St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children Grand Rounds Lecture Series. 2015 Mar 27; Philadelphia, PA.

Awards and Honors

2014, American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Research Fellowship Award

2013, Pediatric Academic Societies Travel Award Program for Young Investigators

2007, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Alumni Association Gold Medal

2003, Dr. Robert Joseph Barnet Award to an Outstanding Arts and Letters Pre-professional Senior, University of Notre Dame

2003, Phi Beta Kappa

2002, Alpha Epsilon Delta (National Health Pre-professional Honor Society)

2002, Omicron Delta Epsilon (International Economics Honor Society)

Editorial and Academic Positions

Ad Hoc Reviewer

Annals of Thoracic Surgery


World Journal for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery

American Journal of Cardiology

Cardiology in the Young

Leadership and Memberships

2015 – present, American Society of Echocardiography

2013 – present, Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance

2013 – present, American Heart Association