Heart Transplant Program
In a heart transplant, surgeons replace a child’s diseased heart with a healthy heart from a donor.
If your child’s heart is failing (it cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs), there are various treatment options. Doctors will first see if medicine, cardiac catheterization or surgery can improve the heart enough. If these treatments do not improve the heart failure, your child’s doctors may recommend a heart transplant.
Diseases that can lead to heart failure
Heart disease includes many conditions that affect parts of the heart or how it works. Some common diseases and conditions that can lead to heart failure include:
- Congestive heart failure
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
- Pulmonary atresia with intact ventricular septum
Heart Transplant at Seattle Children's
The Heart Transplant Program provides compassionate, state-of-the-art care before, during and after transplant. Seattle Children’s outcomes are among the best in the nation.
We treat infants, children, teens and young adults from birth through age 21. Since our program started in 1994, our team has done more than 275 pediatric heart transplants. Optum’s Clinical Sciences Institute lists our program as a Center of Excellence.
The transplant process requires extensive preparation and lifelong follow-up care. Our team has the medical and surgical expertise to handle even the most complex cases. If your child needs a heart transplant, Seattle Children’s is 1 of the best places to be.
Seattle Children’s post-transplant 1-year and 3-year survival rates are among the best in the nation.
- See our volumes and outcomes data.
- We publish the results of our program 2 times a year with the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.
The most advanced therapies for treating heart failure
Our Heart Failure Program is the only one in the Pacific Northwest with the expertise to offer every type of therapy for heart failure. We have the medical and surgical expertise, and the latest technology, to handle the most complex cases. Often this means we can avoid or delay a transplant.
Providing a bridge to transplant
Our Extracorporeal Life Support Program provides life support when a child’s heart or lungs are not working properly or need to rest.
Our Ventricular Assist Devices Program provides more lasting support for a failing ventricle.
Along with expert surgical techniques, we have state-of-the-art immunogenetics, blood banking and immunological treatment. This means we can do successful transplants for children who otherwise would not qualify.
ABO blood group–mismatched transplants
We offer ABO blood group–mismatched transplants so babies do not have to wait as long for a transplant.
If a child has type O blood, some centers will only transplant a donor heart that is also type O. We will accept O, AB, A or B for children less than 2 years old. These children typically wait the longest for a donor heart. Our outcomes for ABO-incompatible (mismatched) transplants are just as excellent as for ABO-compatible transplants.
We work with our blood bank to carefully prepare our patients so they can have an ABO-incompatible transplant. Our methods can help keep the patient from forming antibodies that may attack the new heart (this is called rejection).
Transplants for HLA-sensitized patients
Children who have had many surgeries may develop antibodies to certain human leukocyte antigens (HLAs). HLAs help define whether an organ is a good match for a patient. If a child already has antibodies, they are likely to quickly attack any donor organ that contains those HLAs.
Children who are HLA-sensitized usually wait longer than others for an acceptable organ. They are at higher risk for rejecting their new heart.
At Seattle Children’s, we have done transplants for children who are HLA-sensitized and may offer this in properly selected cases. We use advanced techniques to decide on the best donor match for each child. After the transplant, we use advanced B-cell–targeted immunosuppression therapy to keep the child’s immune system from rejecting the new heart.
Heart Transplant Clinic
We are committed to making sure your child has the best possible growth and quality of life. The Heart Transplant Clinic provides support and follow-up services, including support, education and counseling. Your child will visit this clinic for most appointments before and after their transplant.
Pediatric Heart Transplant Team
Everyone on the heart transplant team is dedicated to helping your whole family return to an active, normal life.
A coordinated team before, during and after transplant
The same team of doctors, nurses and technicians will care for your child before, during and after transplant. Our highly skilled specialists are very experienced in the surgical and medical care of pediatric heart transplant patients. They include pediatric:
- Heart surgeons
- Heart transplant psychologist
- Cardiac anesthesiologists
- Cardiac intensivists
- Transplant nurses
- Cardiopulmonary perfusionists
They are further supported by:
- Infectious disease experts
- Blood bank doctors
- Physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists and feeding specialists
- Social workers
- Child Life specialists
All of these team members have expertise in pediatric heart transplantation.
Meet the full Heart Center team.
Resources for Patients and Families
Learn what to expect and how to prepare if your child needs a heart transplant.
Find more heart transplant resources such as useful links, videos and recommended reading for you and your family.
Contact the Heart Center at for an appointment, a second opinion or more information.
Providers, read how to refer a patient.
- Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU)
- Heart Transplant Handbook: What to Know Before a Heart Transplant (PDF) (Spanish)
- Heart Transplant Handbook: What to Know After a Heart Transplant (PDF) (Spanish)
- Heart Transplant Research and Investigative Studies
- Pediatric Heart Transplant: A Guide for Patients and Families (Spanish)
- Ventricular Assist Devices (VAD)
- What to Expect: Heart Transplant