Heart Surgery

Surgery is used to treat heart defects. Procedures 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 surgeries are designed to restore the heart’s circulation to as normal a level as possible so a child can live a long and active life. Babies born with complex heart defects need various surgeries, sometimes over several years, for their heart to work the best that it can.

The pediatric heart surgeons at Seattle Children’s use the most advanced techniques and achieve results that are among the best in the nation.

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. Other less common surgeries include:

  • Replacing a blocked or leaking valve
  • Putting in (implanting) a mechanical pump (ventricular assist device) to support the heart while waiting for a transplant, or to give the heart a chance to rest and heal
  • Heart transplant, when the heart cannot be repaired and is failing

Some children are born with complex heart defects that prevent 1 of the heart’s 2 pumping chambers (ventricles) from working (single ventricle defect). These children require a series of surgeries over several years to help their heart pump well enough. Children with single ventricle defects receive compassionate, comprehensive care through our Single Ventricle Program.

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

Our pediatric heart surgeons are experts in the entire range of heart procedures — from simple to complex — for premature infants through young adults.

Having experienced pediatric heart surgeons is of the utmost importance: doctors skilled enough to know not just how to operate, but when and what type of surgery is needed in your child’s particular situation. Each of our heart surgeons is board certified in pediatric heart surgery. This means they have more than 12 years of training in complex newborn and infant procedures.

Your child’s surgeon will use advanced imaging techniques, including cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), echocardiography and 3-D imaging, to create a personalized repair plan that meets your child’s needs and to monitor your child’s progress.

Our surgeons are national leaders in the use of mechanical heart assist devices, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and complex pediatric heart transplantation.

Our heart surgeons perform operations at Seattle Children’s and at Multicare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma as part of our regional cardiac surgery program. We have one of the first accredited fellowship programs in the United States to train the next generation of heart surgeons.

In our pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU), we offer the most specialized care and advanced technology available.

Surgical outcomes that are consistently among the best in the nation

Seattle Children’s surgeons do more than 500 pediatric heart procedures each year, more than any other group of providers in the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) region. We performed a successful heart transplant for a baby less than 2 weeks old, the youngest infant in the Pacific Northwest to have a heart transplant.

Our outcomes are among the best in the nation for simple to complex heart procedures and transplants for children. Read more about the Heart Center’s statistics and outcomes.

Innovations that get results

We are working to make surgeries safer and more effective, including:

  • Developing new surgical strategies to meet the individual needs of each child
  • Less invasive options, including hybrid heart procedures that combine surgery and cardiac catheterization
  • We offer unique options (blood conservation techniques) for families who prefer that their child not receive blood products or a blood transfusion. We are dedicated to providing the best medical and surgical care for your child while respecting your religious, cultural and personal values about receiving stored or donated blood.
  • Seattle Children’s is the only hospital in the Pacific Northwest able to implant a semi-permanent mechanical pump (ventricular assist device, or VAD) for a child awaiting a heart transplant or other surgical procedure. Read more about Adam’s story with HeartMate II.

Who’s on the team?

Dr. Jonathan Chen leads the Heart Center’s surgery program. He and Drs. Michael McMullan, Muhammad Nuri and Lester Permut perform most surgeries together so children benefit from the collaboration of experienced pediatric heart surgeons. Each is board certified in pediatric cardiac surgery.

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).

Contact Us

Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2015 for a referral, a second opinion or more information.