If your child needs heart surgery, you probably have many questions about next steps, treatment, and recovery. At Children’s National Health System, our pediatric heart surgeons provide the full spectrum of heart surgery services, caring for children with even the most complex heart conditions. We regularly handle some of the nation’s most complex surgical cases.
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 units (ICU). 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 intensive care unit (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. Learn more about the cardiac ICU at Children’s National.
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: 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 Children’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).
- After a CICU 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.