Seattle Children's Arrhythmia Program

Our comprehensive Arrhythmia Program provides treatment and evaluation to children with heart rhythm problems - from the simple to the complex.

Seattle Children's was the first hospital in the Pacific Northwest to establish a pediatric electrophysiology program.

What services do you offer?

Electrophysiology (EP) studies and radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

To diagnose and treat arrhythmias, as heart rhythm problems are called, we perform specialized procedures called electrophysiology (EP) studies and radiofrequency ablation (RFA).

During an EP study, cardiologists guide small catheters (plastic tubes) to the heart through the blood vessels of the leg to read the heart's electrical signals. An EP study is most commonly used to determine the cause of an abnormal heart rhythm. It is sometimes used to determine whether a child needs a pacemaker or defibrillator.

When the cause of an arrhythmia is found during an EP study, radiofrequency ablation may be performed to correct the problem. In most cases, the arrhythmia is caused by an electrical short circuit in the heart.

During RFA, the cardiologist guides a special catheter to the abnormal area in the heart and sends radiofrequency energy to destroy the small piece of tissue that is causing the problem. Just a few years ago, difficult-to-treat arrhythmias might have required heart surgery; now, many can be corrected with RFA.

Pacemakers and defibrillators

We also implant pacemakers and defibrillators. Children with certain heart conditions may need one of these devices to restore and control the rhythm of their heart.

Pacemakers are small electronic devices that help control the speed and pattern of a heartbeat. These small devices monitor the heart rhythm and stimulate the heart with an electrical impulse when it beats too slow or irregularly.

A defibrillator is similar to a pacemaker. It continuously monitors the heart for life-threatening rhythm problems such as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. These kinds of arrhythmias can cause a heart attack and can be fatal. When the defibrillator detects one of these arrhythmias, it sends an electrical shock to the heart to bring it back to a normal rhythm.

In addition to performing these and other procedures in the hospital, our program includes two clinics - the Pediatric Arrhythmia Clinic and the Pediatric Pacemaker Clinic - where we diagnose new patients, evaluate patients with existing heart conditions and monitor patients with pacemakers and defibrillators.

What's special about the experience at Seattle Children's?

Seattle Children's has three full-time pediatric electrophysiologists, which is uncommon among children's hospitals. There are only about 100 of these specialists in the United States.

Pediatric electrophysiologists are cardiologists who specialize in heart rhythm problems in children with congenital heart disease. Beyond training and experience as a pediatric cardiologist, pediatric electrophysiologists have at least an additional year of subspecialty training in dealing with cardiac arrhythmias, pacemakers and life-threatening heart rhythms.

We use current technology such as cryoablation, a state-of-the-art catheter ablation system that makes procedures significantly safer for our patients.

Who's on the team?

Led by Drs. Terrence ChunJack Salerno and  Stephen Seslar , the Arrhythmia Program includes cardiac nurses, cardiac nurse practitioners, pediatric anesthesiologists, pediatric cardiac surgeons and other pediatric cardiologists to ensure that your child gets the best care possible.