Seattle Children’s Arrhythmia Program
Our Arrhythmia Program provides comprehensive treatment and evaluation to children and teens with heart rhythm problems — from the simple to the complex.
What services do you offer?
Electrophysiology studies and transcatheter ablations
To diagnose and treat heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), we perform specialized procedures called electrophysiology (EP) studies and transcatheter ablation in our state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs.
In most cases, the arrhythmia is caused by a problem with the electrical system in the heart.
During an EP study, a heart doctor (cardiologist) guides small plastic tubes (catheters) 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.
If the cause of an arrhythmia is found during an EP study, the doctor may use a form of transcatheter ablation to correct the problem:
- During a transcatheter ablation, the doctor guides a special catheter to the abnormal area in the heart.
- Then, the doctor will destroy the small piece of tissue that is causing the problem. They will either burn (cauterize) the tissue with radiofrequency energy (radiofrequency ablation) or freeze the tissue using cryo energy (cryoablation).
- The type of energy used depends on the location of the tissue within the heart and how close it is to the heart’s normal electrical system.
Just a few years ago, difficult-to-treat arrhythmias might have required heart surgery. Now many can be corrected with transcatheter ablations.
Pacemakers and defibrillators
We also put in 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. They monitor the heart rhythm and stimulate the heart with an electrical impulse when it beats too slowly 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 lead to sudden cardiac arrest (the heart stops beating) and death if left untreated. When the defibrillator detects one of these arrhythmias, it sends an electrical shock to the heart to bring it back to normal rhythm.
Our Arrhythmia Program includes an outpatient Electrophysiology 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 was the first hospital in the Pacific Northwest to establish a program to offer pediatric electrophysiology and pacing services.
Our Arrhythmia Program has 3 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 heart doctors (cardiologists) who specialize in heart rhythm problems in children. After their training in pediatric cardiology, they have additional subspecialty training in dealing with cardiac arrhythmias, pacemakers and life-threatening heart rhythms.
We use the most current technology, such as cryoablation, a state-of-the-art catheter ablation system that makes procedures significantly safer for our patients.
To meet your child’s long-term healthcare needs, we have a special Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) program to transition your child to adult care when they’re ready.
Who’s on the team?
Dr. Jack Salerno is the director of Electrophysiology and Pacing Services. He works closely with Drs. Terrence Chun and Stephen Seslar and with electrophysiology nurse Jennifer Keylon, RN.
Our 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.