Heart Surgery

Advanced Heart Surgery for Children: Early Primary Repair

At Children’s National, we plan treatments with your child’s long-term health in mind. If a newborn needs heart surgery, we intervene early and aggressively to correct defects. This way, the repair or reconstruction grows with your child and he or she benefits from a faster recovery. This approach is called early primary repair.

Many heart programs for children recommend waiting until a newborn is older before performing heart surgery. However, the longer we wait, the more health consequences a child may suffer. We perform surgery on infants so we can give them the best possible start in life:

  • More than two-thirds of cardiovascular surgeries we perform are on patients less than 1 year old
  • Half of those surgeries are on newborns less than 1 month old

Preventing Brain Injury During Heart Surgery: Our Approach

When children need open heart surgery, we often need to place them on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine. During the surgery, the bypass machine takes over the function of the lungs and heart. This can carry a risk of neurological damage.

At Children’s National, our team takes every step possible to protect your child’s brain development. In fact, we are considered a leader in this area. Our heart specialists use evidence-based protective measures and take all the necessary steps to ensure a successful surgery—for your child’s heart and brain.

Heart Surgery for Children: Family Resources

Our goal is to maximize the quality of our patients’ lives and ease the stress on families. Children’s National Heart Institute provides many family-centered services because we understand that when a child is ill, it affects the entire family.

Heart Surgery for Children: Why Choose Children’s National

Our pediatric heart specialists have dedicated their careers to providing excellent heart care to patients with congenital heart defects and other cardiac conditions. To us, child-centered care is not just a phrase—it is at the core of all we do. We offer:

  • Specialized care. Our pediatric heart surgery team has advanced experience performing heart procedures, from basic procedures to the most complex. You can feel confident that the most qualified, experienced specialists will be caring for your child.
  • 24/7 anesthesia care. A pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist is available 24/7 to provide anesthesia, sedation and pain management for our littlest patients. In fact, Children’s National is the only hospital in the Washington, DC, region to offer that guarantee.
  • Protecting brain development. Our holistic approach means we care for all aspects of your child’s health. During heart surgery, we use advanced measures to protect your child’s brain and neurological development.
  • Advanced technology. We’ve incorporated the most sophisticated technology available into our procedure rooms and cardiac intensive care unit. For example, our cardiac operating rooms include flat-paneled TV screens so that every specialist in the room can see exactly what is happening during the procedure, leading to better collaboration and a smoother, more efficient surgery.
  • Collaborative. Your child’s heart team includes many different specialists, including pediatric heart surgeons, cardiologists and anesthesiologists. We meet regularly and collaborate about your child, discussing care recommendations and next steps.
  • Family-centered. We know that you want to be with your child at all times. With that in mind, we designed extra-large rooms in our Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (Cardiac ICU), with plenty of room for one or both parents to stay with their child. We strive to make your time with us as comfortable as possible.

Heart Surgery: What to Expect Before and After Your Child’s Procedure 

Our approach to care results in shorter lengths of stay for patients following surgery. For example, we use the smallest incisions possible and streamline our surgical process so it’s efficient and effective. We provide:

  • Preoperative diagnosis. We pinpoint your child’s exact condition. An accurate diagnosis is crucial in order to tailor a personalized treatment plan. Learn more about cardiac imaging.
  • Postoperative care and evaluation. After your child’s surgery:
    • Pediatric cardiac intensivists and cardiac critical care nurses and therapists provide the next stage of care in our Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.
    • After a Cardiac ICU stay, we transfer your child to a dedicated cardiac unit with specially trained cardiac physicians and advanced practice nurse practitioners.
    • During the recovery period, we perform tests to ensure the success of the procedure.
  • Next steps. If your child needs any type of post-surgery therapy or other care, we plan for that and discuss the next steps with you.

Learn More About

  • Services for Families: Support services and helpful resources for families and patients
  • Amenities: Information about our facilities and services available during your child’s hospitalization

Contact Us

For more information, call us at 1-202-476-2811.

Children's Team

Children's Team


Children's Locations that Perform this Procedure

Children's Locations that Perform this Procedure

Treatment Service Locations

main hospital

Main Hospital

111 Michigan Avenue, NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20010

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Our Stories

Our Stories

Dylan C.'s Story

"The heart team at Children's National was excellent. We felt like we were in the right place and our son was in the right hands. There is no substitute for this . . . none."

Cameron H.'s Story

"If your child has been diagnosed with a heart defect, please know that Children's National will provide your child with the best care possible."

Ryan's Story

Ryan was born with a rare condition -- his heart developed outside his body. Find out how Children's doctors worked together to help Ryan thrive.

Ryan B.'s Story

"Ryan's life had been saved by an amazing team of doctors and nurses."

Matthew R.'s Story

"It is overwhelming for any parent with children of any age to have to experience something like this. Now that I am and have gone through the experience I cannot thank Children's National enough for its kindness, professionalism, and knowledge."

Patient story

Violet's Story

"Our fears and concerns were handled by the team at Children's National. You cannot be in better hands."

Turner's Story

"These people weren't just coming to work, they had a passion for making our son healthy."

Whisper's Story

"I hope if anything, you find the positive in your situation and believe in your child's doctors and team at Children's National. They have been there for us through so much and we couldn't have asked for a better experience than we had during this life-changing event."

Maren's Story

"Randy and I knew Children's was the best choice for Maren and us as a family. I never had to beat myself up, wondering if we had made the right choice. It was already settled in my mind that the best choice was made."

Mollie's Story

"I look back on those very challenging 21 days and realize that with the help of wonderful nurses... that it is possible to get through your time at Children's National."

Patient story

Alex's Story

"He is proud of his scar. He likes to tell people he is special and when they ask him why, he will tell them he had a bad heart and the doctors at Children's National made it all better."

Aden's Story

"If you are in the same situation that we are, it's helpful to know others that are in the same situation."

Patient story

Addison's Story

"If you are reading this because your child has been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, just know that you are in good hands at Children's."

Patient story

Alexis's Story

"She likes to show off her scar and tell whoever listens that Children's National fixed her heart."

Ian's Story

Ian was born with a heart that was not fully formed, the specialists at Children's National rebuilt his heart to function normally and gave him all the energy he'll ever need.

Gary's Story

"His experience has made him, and us, much stronger people. I am forever grateful to Children's National for saving his life."

Brayden's Story

"The world of congenital heart defects is scary, but to know that there are people like those at Children's National to help guide you along the way is very comforting."

Brooke's Story

"We could ask as many questions as we wanted, whenever. The doctors and nurses always had an answer!"

Patient story

Athena's Story

"To all the parents out there with a baby with hypoplastic left heart, good days will come. These babies overcome what seems impossible and have so much love to offer."

Charlotte's Story

"It is a little scary to see your baby with tubes, lines, gauze, and all of the other medical gear occupying their body, but once the nurses explain what it all does and how it helps your baby, you will feel much better."

Owen's Story

"We are so thankful that we chose the remarkable doctors at Children's National to care for our son. The compassion and care that were given not just to Owen, but to our entire family, is something we will forever be grateful for."

Riley's Story

"Richard Jonas, MD, and his fellows came in and explained it all to me the best they could. One even drew me a picture. I was dealing with an issue that I really had no idea was such a big issue."

Scott's Story

"You should know that your child is being cared for at the finest children's hospital in the world and he or she could not be in better hands."

Patient story

Samuel's Story

"I don't know what would have happened if we were not blessed to live in an area with outstanding pediatricians and in such close proximity to Children's National."

Janaya's Story

"The one thing that helps is to talk about what you are feeling, cry if you need to, always be involved in your child's care, and ask questions if you don't understand."

Patient story

Joshua's Story

"We realize that we were very lucky we lived so close to one of the best children's hospitals with the best cardiac surgeons!"

Jax's Story

"I know this is a scary time for you. But it's okay: you have Children's National."

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