Congenital Heart

Leader in Heart Care

Our team of dedicated cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, and cardiac intensivists care for children and adults with a wide range of congenital and acquired heart disease.

Children's National Heart Institute has emerged as one of the top cardiac cardiac centers in the nation. The Institute brings together a multidisciplinary team to provide specialized expertise and supports all facets of congenital heart disease.

Supporting a Healthy Future

U.S.News & World Report consistently ranks us among the best children’s hospitals for cardiology and heart surgery. We are home to clinical and research teams with expertise in treating cardiology patients of all ages. We can diagnose heart abnormalities before birth providing ample time to plan for treatment immediately after birth. Most of our heart surgery patients are younger than one year old; many of them are younger than six months.

In fact, our cardiology patients often stay with us as they age into young adults. Some stay with us for life; others connect with cardiologists who care for adult patients with congenital heart disease (CHD), through innovative clinical care collaborations.

Researching the Links between Congenital Heart Disease and Brain Development

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect, affecting approximately eight of every 1,000 newborns, and accounting for more deaths in the first year than any other defect. More than 90 percent of children who undergo surgery survive to adulthood, but early detection is critical to getting them the right kind of care.

Our teams work at the intersection of cardiology and neurodevelopment. Blood circulation impacts oxygen supply to the brain, which is especially important in fetuses and newborns whose brains are developing rapidly.

We lead unique research to identify reliable early signs of prenatal brain injury caused by CHD. Our studies have shown for the first time that impaired brain development in fetuses with CHD occurs largely during the third trimester. Ongoing research will identify the earliest signs of impaired brain development, which may help define interventions to limit or even prevent impaired brain development in fetuses and newborns.

Our cardiology team is devoted to treating children's hearts throughout the journey of their life. Our cardiology care begins in utero with the Fetal Heart Program, where our fetal echocardiography enables us to detect heart defects at 18 weeks gestation, and major structures of the heart can be scanned as early as 12 weeks. And then through our work in the Washington Adult Congenital Heart Program, we provide specialized care to adults living with congenital heart disease. From the womb, to adulthood, hearts are healed at Children's National. Read more on how our cardiology team helps hearts here and abroad.

Improving Children's Heart Health around the World

Gerard R. Martin, MD, Co-Director of Children’s National Heart Institute, leads research demonstrating that pulse oximetry screening - a simple, inexpensive, and non-invasive test performed in the first 24 hours of life - improves the early detection of critical CHD.

Dr. Martin, his colleagues from the program, and our Child Health Advocacy Institute developed the Congenital Heart Disease Screening Program to educate health professionals and advocate for rules and legislation to make pulse oximetry a routine newborn screening. To date, more than 30 states have enacted such laws. Hospitals and health centers across the nation, and in several countries including the Netherlands, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates, are using a toolkit we developed to implement CHD screening as standard practice. This early detection toolkit is changing how physicians across the world screen for critical CHD early in the patient’s life.

Advanced Cardiac Imaging and Intervention

Through a partnership with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), we opened a state-of-the-art facility to diagnose and guide treatment for newborns, children, and adults with congenital heart disease.

Together our work brings new therapies to our patients and, consistent with our mission, makes patients more comfortable, procedures less invasive, and recovery times shorter.

The Interventional Cardiac Magnetic Resonance program provides precise diagnostics and treatment. The technology produces high-resolution images of the heart, and allows doctors to accurately measure cardiac output, blood flow volumes, and pressure gradients. The cardiac imaging team works closely with our Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology Division. Working together, we can capture details of a patient's heart that were previously unavailable.

Our Experts

Our surgeons perform the largest number of pediatric surgeries in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, with one of the best success rates for cardiac surgery in the nation. This success is thanks to the contributions of every member of our interdisciplinary pediatric team and our integrated approach to care centered on families. 

Several members of our team, including Richard Jonas, MD, Division Chief, Cardiac Surgery, and Charles Berul, MD, Division Chief, Cardiology, were nominated by their peers and recognized in national media as leading experts in their specialties.

We are also one of a few programs in the country with a specialized team of pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists who provide anesthesia and pain management for patients with congenital heart disease and other cardiac conditions.

Child-Centered Care

To engage patients and families in their day-to-day care, and to make their personal health information accessible to all the providers as they grow, our cardiology team developed Follow My Heart, a secure, electronic personal health record that patients can access anywhere they go. Better treatment means children with congenital heart disease will live longer. Follow My Heart encourages patients to take an active role in managing their congenital condition throughout their lifetime.

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