Heart Surgery

Surgery is used to treat a wide range of heart defects. Surgeries may range from the simple, such as closing a hole or tying off a vessel, to the complex, such as switching vessels or repairing heart valves.

Many heart operations are designed to restore the circulation in the heart to as normal a level as possible so a child can live a long and active life.

Complex heart defects require various surgeries to enable the heart to work the best that it can.

Children who have had heart operations will need regular visits to a cardiologist throughout their life.

Why are heart surgeries done?

Many heart defects can be fixed with  cardiac catheterization procedures , but some conditions still require surgery.

Heart operations are commonly used to close holes in the heart, such as:

Other less-common operations include the Ross procedure (a surgery to replace a blocked or leaking  aortic valve ),  heart transplants  and  ventricular assist device (VAD)  implantation.

Some children are born with complex heart defects that prevent one  ventricle  of the heart's two ventricles from working, such as  hypoplastic left heart syndrome .

These children require a series of operations:

  1. As a newborn, the child will have the Norwood operation.
  2. When the child is about 5 months old, she will have the Glenn shunt procedure.
  3. When she is between 3 and 4 years old, she will have the Fontan procedure.

Children's Heart Center uses the most advanced techniques, and we routinely achieve very good results.

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

Our surgeons perform a wide range of heart procedures. We performed a heart transplant for a baby less than 2 weeks old, the youngest infant in the Pacific Northwest to undergo heart transplant.

We are dedicated to a practice that increases positive outcomes and reduces human error .

Our Extracorporeal Life Support Program  includes extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and VAD implantation.

Children's ECMO program was established in 1990 for treatment of newborns and expanded in 1995 to serve pediatric patients of all ages. ECMO machines are heart-lung pumps that circulate blood outside of the body when a child's heart or lungs fail to function properly or need to rest.

VADs are used when only the heart needs mechanical support. Seattle Children's is the only hospital in the Pacific Northwest to be able to implant a semi-permanent VAD for a child awaiting a heart transplant or other surgical procedure. Read more about Adam's story with HeartMateII .

A VAD device enables children to go home, rather than stay in the hospital, while waiting for surgery.

Who's on the team?

Division Chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery and Heart Center Co-Director Dr. Jonathan Chen  has been a member of the heart surgery team since 2013. He and Drs.  Michael McMullan  and  Lester Permut perform most surgeries together so children benefit from the collaboration of three experienced pediatric heart surgeons.

The heart surgery team at Seattle Children's includes pediatric  cardiac anesthesiologists , fellows, cardiac nurses, cardiac nurse practitioners,  cardiac intensivists  and cardiopulmonary perfusionists, who operate the heart-lung machine (also called the bypass machine).