Why are heart surgeries done?
Seattle Children’s pediatric heart surgeons do surgery to treat heart defects in 2 state-of-the-art operating rooms (ORs) in our new surgical building. Our mission is to provide the safest surgical care and best possible outcomes for every child we treat.
Procedures range from simple, like closing a hole in the heart or tying off blood vessels, to complex, like switching vessels or repairing or replacing heart valves.
Some heart defects can be fixed with cardiac catheterization procedures, but many conditions still require surgery.
Most heart surgeries are done to make blood flow in and around the heart as normal as possible so a child can live a long and active life.
Babies born with complex heart defects may need a few surgeries, sometimes over many years. This includes children with defects that keep 1 of the heart’s 2 pumping chambers (ventricles) from working. These children receive compassionate, comprehensive care through our Single Ventricle Program.
Other less common surgeries include:
- Putting in (implanting) a mechanical pump (ventricular assist device) to support the heart while waiting for a transplant or to give the heart a chance to rest and heal
- Heart transplant, when the heart cannot be repaired and is failing
Forest B video tour: Growing for Future Grown-ups (Video. 3:48)
Your child’s heart surgery will take place in 1 of Seattle Children’s new ORs dedicated to cardiac care.
What’s special about heart surgery at Seattle Children’s?
- Seattle Children’s pediatric heart surgeons are experts in the entire range of heart procedures for premature infants through young adults.
- Having experienced pediatric heart surgeons is important. They must be skilled enough to know not just how to operate, but when to operate and what type of surgery your child needs. Each of our heart surgeons has more than 12 years of training to perform complex newborn and infant procedures and has advanced fellowship training in congenital heart surgery.
- Your child’s repair plan is custom-made for their needs. Your child’s surgeon will use advanced imaging techniques, like cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), echocardiography and 3-D imaging, to create a personalized plan and to check your child’s progress.
- Our surgeons are national leaders in mechanical heart assist devices, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and pediatric heart transplantation.
- Our pediatric cardiac anesthesia team has special training in giving anesthesia to children with heart problems to keep them safe and comfortable during and after surgery.
- Heart Center patients have surgery in Seattle Children’s new Forest B building. Opened in 2022, Forest B is home to a new cardiac suite. The suite includes 2 ORs for heart surgeries and 2 cardiac catheterization laboratories.
- Families played a key role in the design of Forest B to ensure not only high-quality care but also a comfortable experience. For example, our new induction rooms provide a place where you can stay with your child longer before their surgery.
- The cardiac suite is next to our pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). The CICU team offers the most specialized care and advanced technology available for children who have complex heart problems or are recovering from surgery.
- Seattle Children’s surgeons do more than 500 pediatric heart procedures each year — more than any other group of providers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming or Alaska.
- We performed a successful heart transplant for a baby the day he was born, making him the youngest infant in the Pacific Northwest to have a heart transplant.
- Our outcomes are among the best in the nation for simple to complex heart procedures and transplants for children. Read more about the Heart Center’s statistics and outcomes.
- To make sure all our patients thrive, we are focused on improving health equity. We measure outcomes across different groups of patients — such as survival rates across racial and ethnic groups — to ensure that every family benefits from the expertise and advancements at Seattle Children’s.
- We are working to make surgeries safer and more effective. We develop new surgical strategies to meet the individual needs of each child. When possible, we use less invasive options, including hybrid heart procedures that combine surgery and cardiac catheterization.
- We use advanced techniques (blood conservation/bloodless surgery techniques) to reduce the need for a blood transfusion. We provide the best medical and surgical care for your child while respecting your religious, cultural and personal values about transfusion.
- Seattle Children’s is the only hospital in the Pacific Northwest able to implant a semi-permanent mechanical pump (ventricular assist device, or VAD) for young children waiting for a heart transplant. This device can pump blood for a child for months if needed.
- We have one of the first accredited fellowship programs in the United States to train the next generation of pediatric heart surgeons.
- Many children and families travel to Seattle Children’s for heart surgery. We take care of families from across the region. We help you coordinate travel and housing so you can stay focused on your child.
- Our team welcomes and supports families who may face barriers to getting care, like Alaska Natives living in remote towns, people traveling from Eastern Washington for care and families who speak a language other than English. Along with supporting each family individually, we are working to improve the system and provide high-quality care for everybody.
- Whatever types of care your child needs, we will do everything we can to 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.
- 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 your experience as smooth as possible.
- Read more about the supportive care we offer.
"The way I look at it, is if they can get through a heart surgery at just a few days old, and continue to go through surgeries in their life, there’s not a thing that can stop them — these are unstoppable kids."
– Sierra Landman, whose daughter Nevaeh had her first surgery at Seattle Children’s at just 7 days old
Scheduling an Appointment With the Heart Center
- If you would like a referral to Seattle Children’s Heart Center, talk to your primary care provider.
- 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.
Who’s on the team?
The heart surgery team at Seattle Children’s includes board-certified pediatric cardiac surgeons, cardiac anesthesiologists, fellows, cardiac nurses, cardiac nurse practitioners, cardiac intensivists and cardiopulmonary perfusionists. These experts work closely with others on the larger Heart Center team to ensure your child gets the care they need before, during and after surgery.
Our heart surgeons perform operations at Seattle Children’s and at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma and University of Washington Medical Center as part of our regional cardiac surgery program.
Physician assistants and nurses who specialize in childhood heart conditions work closely with the surgeons to care for your child.
“You wouldn’t know about Bowen’s rocky beginning if it wasn’t for the scar on his chest. He’s a smiling, outgoing boy with no limitations. As a parent, you just have to remember there’s always hope.”
– Emily Warren, whose son Bowen was born with 3 heart defects