Pediatric 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.

Applicable Conditions

Applicable Conditions

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a combination of several abnormalities of the heart and great blood vessels. It is a congenital syndrome.

Children's Team

Children's Team

Providers

Scheel J

Janet Scheel

Director, Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program
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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Pre and Post Operative Care

Pre and Post Operative Care

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.
    • 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.
Our Stories

Our Stories

Ryan Morales and Kurt Newman

Ryan Morales' Story

Father and son Ryan and Alex Morales know what it’s like to spend days—even weeks in the hospital. The two have been patients at Children’s National Health System for more than 10 years. Their stories are connected by Children’s National physicians who have been treating them since 2005 and continue to see them improve and grow in more ways than one.

Ryan M

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.

Teresa Dejesus

Teresa's Story

Teresa, 2, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and waited on the Berlin Heart EXCOR® Pediatric Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) for nine months while she waited for a heart transplant. Her heart arrived on Christmas Day.

Zach Blumenfeld

Zach's Story

Zachary Blumenfeld is so thankful for the Children’s National Health System physicians who saved his life. Now, he wants to spread miracles around the world.

Labor Day 2012

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."

boy smiling on hospital bed

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."

April

Turner's Story

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

ryan

Ryan W.'s Story

In the fall of 2015, Stafford, Va., residents Sarah and Jay gave birth to their first child, a beautiful, healthy baby boy named Ryan. 

boy with shovel on beach

Ryan B.'s Story

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

Departments

Departments

Heart Failure and Transplant Program

We provide personalized care for babies and children with heart failure, including advanced VAD techniques and heart transplantation.

Cardiac Surgery

Our pediatric heart surgery team performs twice the number of surgeries of any other hospital in the region, with some of the best outcomes in the nation.

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