Children who are born with complex congenital heart disease (CHD) are at risk for problems with the growth and development of their brain and central nervous system.

The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic evaluates and treats babies and children with complex congenital heart defects who had heart surgery before their first birthday. We provide close follow-up during their first 3 to 5 years of life.

A visit to the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic can provide reassurance that your child’s brain and central nervous system are developing normally. If we find developmental issues, we can help connect you with the therapies that make a difference.

What’s special about Seattle Children’s Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic?

The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic is the only one of its kind in Washington state. It brings together experts from Seattle Children’s Heart Center and the Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD) at the University of Washington Medical Center. In 2016, U.S. News and World Report ranked Seattle Children’s Heart Center the No. 1 pediatric cardiology program in the Northwest.

Together, we:

  • Provide thorough screening of infants and children with CHD to identify any neurodevelopmental issues
  • Create a plan to meet your child’s specific developmental needs
  • Recommend therapies to help children reach their full potential
  • Monitor progress and adjust the plan as necessary as your child grows

Our team of experts can help children who are currently developing on target in addition to those who are experiencing developmental delays.

How does this program differ from early intervention programs?

Early intervention programs provide in-home therapy services such as physical, occupational and speech therapy. Our program identifies children who need such services and suggests treatment goals that your child’s early intervention team can implement.

Where is the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic?

Our clinic is located at the Center on Human Development and Disability behind the University of Washington Medical Center. Parking is available at the S1 parking garage for $15, which is fully reimbursed after your clinic visit. See more location and parking details.

Who is the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic for?

All infants who require heart surgery before the age of 1 may be referred to the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic, either by their heart doctor or their primary care doctor. This includes children who had heart surgery somewhere other than Seattle Children's. 

Appointments can be scheduled up to a year in advance.

To schedule an appointment or make a referral, call the Center on Human Development and Disability at 206-598-3327.

What services does the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic offer?

For infants with the most severe heart defects, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician will do an initial screening while your baby is in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. For most children with CHD, your baby will be referred to the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic for a comprehensive evaluation around their first birthday.

Developmental challenges linked to CHD may include:

  • Physical coordination and thinking (motor and cognitive skills)
  • Emotions, behavior and relationships
  • Feeding skills
  • Speech and language development
  • Play skills, such as recognizing shapes, patterns and colors
  • Attention, learning and memory
  • School preparedness

Many experts working together

Your child’s first visit to the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic involves a thorough screening by providers from many different medical services. Each is an expert in a specific area of pediatric growth and development. This exam will take about 3 hours and includes:

  • Standardized testing and scoring of motor development, cognitive and language skills
  • Screening for hearing difficulties
  • Nutritional assessment and counseling as needed
  • Parental support/guidance
  • Complete neurological exam

By bringing together a comprehensive team to examine your child, we may identify subtle delays or difficulties that would not be apparent otherwise. We will create a detailed report of your child’s individual cognitive and behavioral strengths and weaknesses, and will make recommendations to enhance your child’s development.

Resources in your community

The team will work with you to develop a plan to address any developmental needs that are identified in your first exam. This often involves referring you to therapists or doctors in your community.

The CHDD has more than 40 years of experience working with providers throughout the Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho region. This helps them connect you with the services your child needs close to home.

We will also provide information on school readiness, peer relations, coping, resources or other concerns.

Continuous monitoring

After your first appointment, we will see your child in clinic at least once a year between 1 and 3 years of age, once again between 3 and 5 years of age, and again at 11 or 12 years to check their progress. We can see children outside of those ages by request or referral.

Many children with congenital heart defects need more than one surgery in early childhood. These surgeries may affect their development, so your neurodevelopmental team will monitor your child carefully and work with you to adjust their care plan as needed.

Who’s on the team?

The program is co-led by Dr. Matthew Files, a pediatric heart doctor (cardiologist), and Dr. Lisa Herzig, a developmental pediatrician.

In order to make sure your child’s evaluation is complete, the care team includes these specialists:

  • Pediatric heart doctor (cardiologist)
  • Developmental behavioral pediatrician
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Psychologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Social worker 
  • Audiologist
  • Physical therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Speech therapist

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment or make a referral, call the Center on Human Development and Disability at 206-598-3327.