Treatments and Services

Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU)

CICU triptych

What is the CICU?

The Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) is a distinct unit in Seattle Children’s where we care for babies, children, teens and young adults who are critically ill with heart problems. It is staffed by a team of providers with special training and expertise. At least 1 cardiac intensive care doctor is present in the CICU 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The CICU team is here to provide the high level of care your child needs and to support you and your family through this experience.

What’s special about Seattle Children’s CICU?

Our CICU puts us in an elite class of children’s hospitals in the nation. Ours is the only pediatric CICU in the Pacific Northwest – the next closest is more than 700 miles away.

  • A dedicated team of heart experts
    • In most hospitals, pediatric heart patients are cared for on a general pediatric intensive care unit by doctors and nurses who treat a wide range of medical issues. At Seattle Children’s, we have a special intensive care unit just for children with complex heart conditions.
    • Having a dedicated team, like we do, with advanced training and experience in children’s heart problems, makes a difference. It leads to better care, better outcomes and a better experience for children and their families.
    • We are committed to providing a healing environment for your child and family. When your child needs to be here, we do not want you to ever worry about whether you are in the right place. We want you to be able to focus on your child. The compassion and expertise of our team let you do just that.
    • Even the design of the CICU allows our team to meet children’s needs more carefully. Our caregivers’ workstations are within steps of patient rooms. This offers you and your child the comfort of being able to see and contact your child’s doctors and nurses when you need us. Small, glass-enclosed conference rooms within sight of patient rooms let the care team watch each child even while meeting.

    “They talked to us constantly and we trusted them completely knowing they were doing everything they could to save him.” ~ Andrew Adams, father of Aaden

    A boy and his familyWhen Aaden Adams woke up in Seattle Children’s CICU asking for a Popsicle, his family knew he was on the path to better health. Our expert team got Aaden over a number of hurdles and through a successful heart transplant.

  • The most specialized care and advanced technology
    • We offer extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), an advanced medical technology that provides heart and lung bypass when a child’s heart or lungs stop working or need a rest during a severe illness or after heart surgery.
    • Our ECMO program received the Excellence in Life Support Award from the national Extracorporeal Life Support Organization. The award, one of the highest honors for pediatric ECMO programs, reflects our dedication to outstanding patient care and the highest standards of quality.
    • We are 1 of the first hospitals to use ventricular assist devices (VADs) in children with heart failure. VADs support or replace heart function as a bridge to recovery or a heart transplant.
    • Because we offer many VADs – centrifugal pump, HeartMate, HeartWare, Impella, Berlin Heart and artificial heart – we can choose the device that best matches your child’s needs. We have a special focus using VADs in children with complex congenital heart disease.
    • Our pediatric heart transplant center is 1 of the 10 busiest in the nation and the only center in Washington, Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Oregon.
    • Children need thorough medical and surgical care before, during and after a heart transplant. Our team has 4 pediatric cardiac surgeons, 11 cardiac intensivists and 6 cardiologists with advanced training in the care of heart transplant patients. We also have more than 40 other cardiologists with the special experience needed to care for your child.

    "The expertise and care of the [Seattle] Children’s team coupled with all the love, support and prayers from our family, friends and community, made me feel at ease about the whole process.” ~ Kate, mother of Adam

    A boy and his motherWhile waiting for a heart transplant, Adam Kingsbury was able to leave Seattle Children’s CICU and even attend a baseball game, thanks to a ventricular assist device (VAD). The implanted machine took over pumping blood through his body until a donor heart was available.

  • Support for your whole family
    • Whatever type of care your child needs, we will help your family through this experience. We will discuss your child’s condition and treatment options in ways you understand and involve you in every decision.
    • Most of our CICU patients come from outside the Seattle area. We know you may be away from your home, community and usual support systems while dealing with your child’s critical illness. We are here to help you and your whole family during this time.
    • Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age.
    • Seattle Children’s has many resources, from financial to spiritual, to support your child and your family and make the journey as smooth as possible.
    • Read more about the supportive care we offer.

    “If we didn’t have confidence in the care we received here, this experience would have been a nightmare. But she was in the best hands and we’re incredibly thankful. Each and every caregiver we’ve encountered has our deepest affection and appreciation. Seattle Children’s is a very special place.” ~ Molly, Bella’s mother

    A girlSince age 10, Bella Anderson has been on quite a medical journey – through hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, heart failure and a stroke. As her needs evolved, so did her care at Seattle Children’s Heart Center. Bella’s team even went so far as to make sure she got to have a senior prom while still in the hospital.

  • Research to provide the best CICU care possible
    • Seattle Children’s CICU team works to improve care for all children with complex heart issues through research.
    • We take part in PC4, the Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care Consortium. This is a national group of leaders who care for children with serious heart conditions. PC4 focuses on advancing care by sharing and analyzing data to find what works best.
    • Drs. Titus Chan and Yuen Lie Tjoeng do research on healthcare disparities by race. This important work helps ensure every child gets the care they need with the best possible outcome.

What is it like on the CICU?

Being in the hospital with your child can be difficult. Our CICU was designed with children, families and caregivers in mind. The CICU has 20 single-patient rooms.

  • Features in each patient room
    • Room for two parents or caregivers to stay overnight
    • Private bathroom for the patient
    • A 42-inch flat-screen TV featuring Get Well Town, an interactive media system tailored to each patient, and a different TV for separate viewing by parents
  • Amenities on the unit
    • Two large private bathrooms with showers for parents
    • Quiet rooms on each floor that provide a calm space outside your child’s hospital room
    • Caregiver lounges where patients and families can relax or eat
    • Refrigerators and microwaves in the caregiver lounges for personal food
    • Small conference tables for medical consultations

Welcome to Seattle Children’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) (Video. 5:49)

Scheduling a Consult and Tour for a Prenatal Diagnosis

  • If your baby is diagnosed with a heart problem before birth and we think they will need the CICU after birth, you can schedule a consult with one of our cardiac intensivists. They will explain our approach to care and the services we offer in the CICU.
  • Families with a prenatal diagnosis can also have a tour of Seattle Children’s that includes the CICU.
  • You can arrange a consult or tour through Seattle Children’s Fetal Care and Treatment Center.

Who is on our CICU team?

Caring for children who are critically ill with heart problems requires the skills and compassion of a variety of specialists. Our CICU team members all have pediatric cardiac critical care expertise and work together to make the best care plan for each patient.

The CICU team is co-led by interim co-section chiefs Dr. Ndidi Musa and Dr. Katherine Banker, a pediatric cardiac intensive care specialist, and includes:

  • Cardiac intensive care doctors
  • Cardiac intensive care registered nurses
  • Cardiac intensive care registered nurses
  • Cardiac surgeons
  • Cardiologists
  • Advance practice providers
  • Social workers
  • Nutritionists
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Cardiac intensive care and cardiology fellows who are training to be specialists

Resources for Patients and Families

  • Learn about Heart Center resources such as useful links, videos and recommended reading for you and your family.

Contact Us

Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2515 for a referral, a second opinion or more information.

Providers, see how to refer a patient

Related Links

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, including insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.