Treatments and Services
Heart Failure Program
What is the Heart Failure Program?
Our Heart Failure Program provides coordinated and comprehensive care for more than 350 patients each year with cardiomyopathy and other types of heart failure. The program is part of Seattle Children’s Heart Center. We have the medical and surgical expertise, and the latest technology, to care for newborns, children and young adults with the most complex forms of heart failure.
What’s special about the Heart Failure Program at Seattle Children’s?
Seattle Children’s Heart Failure Program is the only one in the Pacific Northwest with the depth of expertise to offer every type of therapy for babies, children and young adults with heart failure.
Led by Dr. Yuk Law, our team has treated many children with heart failure, including the most complex cases. We have extensive experience with the treatment these patients may require, which includes:
- Medicines to lower the workload of the heart and help the heart pump
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy and other medical devices such as pacemakers and ventricular assist devices
- Surgery to repair defects
When you come to Seattle Children’s, a team of people will take care of your child. Along with your child’s heart doctor (cardiologist), you are connected with other providers, such as cardiac intensivists, newborn specialists (neonatologists), neurodevelopmental pediatricians, nurses, child life specialists, social workers and others, if their expertise is needed.
We work together to meet all of your child’s health needs and help your family through this experience. We’ll discuss treatments in ways you can understand and involve you in every decision.
What services do you offer?
Care often begins before a child is born, when a congenital heart defect is diagnosed through our Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Program. We provide accurate diagnosis, thoughtful counseling and pregnancy management. See our prenatal statistics.
Doctors use many different treatments to lower the workload of the heart. The goals are to control extra water and improve the heart’s ability to pump. Doctors also try to find and treat any condition that caused the heart failure.
Our doctors are able to control many types of heart failure with medicines to help your child’s heart work.
If your child’s heart failure is caused by complex congenital heart disease, they may be at risk for problems with the growth and development of their brain and central nervous system.
We work closely with Seattle Children’s Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic. This 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 help connect you with therapies that make a difference for your child.
Birth defects are the most common cause for heart failure in babies and children. They can cause problems with the heart’s blood flow.
Many heart surgeries are designed to restore the heart’s circulation as much 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.
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. All of our heart surgeons are board certified in pediatric heart surgery. This means they have more than 12 years of training in complex newborn and infant procedures.
Our pediatric heart surgeons use the most advanced techniques and achieve results that are among the best in the nation.
If your child’s heart failure is caused by a heartbeat that is too slow, your doctor may recommend implanting a pacemaker. These small, battery-operated devices are like tiny computers. Doctors place them under your child’s skin. A tiny wire connects the pacemaker to your child’s heart. Pacemakers help your child’s heart maintain a normal rate.
If your child’s heart failure is caused by a lack of coordination between the heart’s 2 ventricles, your doctor may recommend cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT).
CRT uses a special kind of pacemaker. Doctors place a small, battery-operated device under your child’s skin. Tiny wires connect the pacemaker to your child’s ventricles and stimulate them to work in a coordinated way.
Some children need more than medicine to help the heart pump. For some of those children, a ventricular assist device (VAD) can be used. A VAD is a mechanical pump a surgeon implants inside or outside your child’'s chest and connects to the heart during open-heart surgery. Because Seattle Children’'s offers many types of VADs, including newer options not available at every hospital, we can choose the device that’s best for your child.
Most children who receive a VAD will be listed for a heart transplant.
If heart problems cannot be controlled using other treatments, your child may need a heart transplant.
Seattle Children’s Heart Transplant Program was established in 1994. We perform an average of 18 heart transplants every year in babies, children, teens and young adults through age 21. Our certified pediatric-trained heart surgeons, Drs. Michael McMullan and Lester Permut operate together, a unique practice among surgeons.
Our transplant outcomes (survival rates) are consistently among the best in the nation. See our statistics.
We also have a special Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program to transition your child to adult care when they are ready. This program was developed by Seattle Children’s and the University of Washington to help with care throughout your child’s life.
Who’s on the Heart Failure team?
Our Heart Failure Program also includes highly skilled:
We have a pediatric cardiac anesthesia team and a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit for children who have heart surgery. The doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids.
Research to Prevent, Diagnose and Treat Heart Failure
Our physician-scientists study better ways to manage heart failure in children, including:
- Creating tests to help diagnose and monitor heart failure
- Investigating ways to prevent deaths from sudden, unexpected cardiac arrest
- Developing ways to protect the heart and kidneys from injury during surgery
- Studying diseases and health problems that happen at the same time as heart failure
Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2015 for a referral, a second opinion or more information.
- How to schedule an appointment at Seattle Children’s.
- If you already have an appointment, learn more about how to prepare.
- Learn about Heart Center resources such as useful links, videos and recommended reading for you and your family.