Dr. John Waldhausen

Some people think that surgeons who operate on adults are also experts in the surgical care of infants, children and teens. We don't agree. Growing bodies are different from adult bodies, and childhood diseases are not the same as adult diseases. Even the way kids react to surgery – from anesthesia to IV fluids – is different from adults. That's why we exclusively train and perform surgery on kids and why our surgeons are all board certified in pediatric surgery.

Whether we're treating a 1-pound preemie in our Level IV NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) or a 300-pound high school football player, your child's entire surgery team is specially trained to treat children of every age and developmental stage.

Under the leadership of Dr. John Waldhausen, the pediatric surgery team at Seattle Children's Hospital has the experience and expertise to manage any condition.

  • Our surgeons and all other clinical staff are trained to think about each child's unique condition and how best to keep that child safe, from evaluation and diagnosis through surgery and follow-up.
  • We provide comprehensive care in pediatric surgery and for all conditions of the chest, abdomen and pelvis by combining the latest research, the most advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques and state-of-the-art equipment.
  • We consult on each case and partner with all needed Seattle Children's specialists. This team-based approach is often called multidisciplinary care.
  • We're specially trained not just in treating a child's condition, but also in caring for kids.

If your child really needs surgery, are you sure the surgeon is experienced enough to be able to handle any contingency? Even straightforward operations can turn out to have variances that only an experienced team of pediatric surgeons can handle. That's why you should come to Seattle Children's.

Dr. John Waldhausen, chief, Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery

Is surgery best?

We've found that some conditions that are commonly treated with surgery are actually better treated using other therapies that don't include surgery. Even though we're a surgical team, we often use nonoperative methods to treat children. In fact, many of the children we see do not require surgery – more than 40% of our patients go home without needing to have an operation.

But if we determine that an operation is the best method to fix your child's condition, we can offer expertise in a broad range of operative approaches, including minimally invasive procedures, laparoscopic surgery, robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery, or thoracoscopy.

What's special about surgery at Seattle Children's?

Pain management

We know that managing your child's pain after surgery is critical to the healing process. That's why Seattle Children's has a dedicated pain medicine team that specializes in using evidence-based methods to manage pain. We use a variety of methods, from pain medicines formulated especially for children, to regional anesthesia, to alternatives such as acupuncture. We have the largest team of anesthesiologists who train and practice exclusively on children. Each year, our team cares for more than 22,000 children, providing both routine and advanced general and regional anesthesia.

More surgeries, more expertise, better outcomes

More cases mean greater surgical expertise and a sharper ability to determine if surgery is even necessary – and that adds up to better outcomes.

In 2013, we had more than 5,000 patient visits, and our doctors performed more than 2,600 general and thoracic surgical procedures. Of these operations, nearly half were day surgeries and required no overnight stays. Being able to take your child home on the same day after surgery reduces schedule disruptions that illness or injury brings.

  • Each year our surgical teams – from craniofacial to orthopedics – perform about 13,000 surgeries. That's double the number of pediatric surgeries completed by any other institution in the region.
  • We do more minimally invasive surgeries on children for a broader range of conditions than any institution in the region.
  • We have the lowest reported recurrence rate for congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) in the world.
  • We have some of the largest reported surgical outcomes studies for pyloric stenosis, gallbladder removal and necrotizing fasciitis/severe soft-tissue infections in children.
  • We are key team members of the Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Program and regularly partner with other specialists to provide optimal care for newborns with surgical problems.

If you want your child to have surgery, go anywhere; if you want someone to think about what's in your child's best interest, come to Seattle Children's.

Dr. Robert Sawin, Seattle Children's pediatric surgeon-in-chief

Broad range of conditions treated

Our doctors are experts in general pediatric surgery and at treating all conditions of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. From fixing the simplest hernia or treating appendicitis, to operating on the most complex abdominal wall defect, to performing surgery on patients who have cancer, the pediatric surgery team is bringing groundbreaking advances in diagnosis and treatment to the children of the Pacific Northwest. Read a sampling of the conditions we treat.

Our pediatric surgeons work with our neonatal team to treat congenital anomalies at or just after birth in our Level IV NICU. Seattle Children's is the first hospital in Washington state to have a Level IV NICU. When a disorder is detected before birth, as part of the Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Program we will make sure you receive coordinated treatment and expertise if surgery is needed.

The pediatric surgery team handled our daughter's very rare condition with concern for both her future and for her feelings. Their sensitivity (not to mention skill) still means a great deal to us.

Karen and Gregg Gerstenberger, parents, Poulsbo, Washington

Team approach

Every member of our team – from our appointment schedulers to our pediatric nurses – is specially trained to work with children and their families, and our facilities and equipment reflect this kid-friendly, family-centered approach. Learn more about our outstanding team, which is one of the most experienced pediatric surgery teams in the nation.

Convenient care, close to home

We see patients for clinic appointments in Seattle, Bellevue, Federal Way, Everett and Tri-Cities. Depending on the type of surgery, the procedure will be done at our hospital in Seattle, at our Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center or at Kadlec Regional Medical Center.

It's nice to know that this world-class hospital hasn't lost sight of its customer care. With all the interesting and exciting things that happen at Seattle Children's, a simple operation like my daughter's appendectomy was still treated with importance and respect.

Angela Ziska, parent, Mukilteo, Washington