Pediatric heart surgery

When it comes to pediatric heart surgery, no matter how complex it may be, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin leads the nation with some of the highest reported survival rates in the country for centers specializing in pediatric heart disease.

As one of the busiest pediatric heart surgery centers in the country, we perform hundreds more operations than any other program in the state. Research shows that performing a large number of procedures leads to better results.

Surgeries and procedures

We offer the full spectrum of pediatric heart surgeries, including the most complex. Among the procedures we offer are the following:

Exceptional heart surgery outcomes

Parents find hope, reassurance and compassion as Herma Heart Center caregivers focus unmatched expertise on their child. Herma Heart Center sets the bar for excellence nationally when it comes to successfully repairing some of the most complicated cardiac problems. For example, we have the best survival rate in the world for treating hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a critical condition in which a baby is born with only half of the heart functioning.

We set the standard for other complicated heart surgeries, as well, including:

  • Non-neonatal repair of tetralogy of Fallot, a rare, complex combination of four congenital (present at birth) heart defects.
  • Fontan procedure, for repairing defects like hypoplastic left heart syndrome and tricuspid atresia. 
  • Arterial switch procedure, used to to repair defects such as transposition of the great arteries. 

Leading pediatric heart surgeons

Consistently recognized among the Best Doctors in America, all Herma Heart Center surgeons are board-certified in congenital heart surgery -- the only surgeons in the state with this subspecialty certification. Because they perform 750-800 heart procedures each year, our surgeons are highly experienced in treating even the rarest of conditions. This expertise regularly earns them invitations to present their research and innovations to leading medical groups nationally and internationally.

Specialized cardiac surgery team

Heart surgery in children is complex and delicate, which makes an experienced operating room team essential. In the surgery suite, anesthesiologists and other operating room physicians specialize in caring for children with heart defects. In fact, everyone involved in your child’s care at Children’s is a full time fetal, neonatal or pediatric expert. This specialized understanding of children with heart defects improves overall patient care. We are the only pediatric heart care program in Wisconsin to offer this reassurance.

In the intensive care unit after surgery, pediatric critical care/cardiac intensive care specialists (intensivists) care for children in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). These experts have the skills to manage heart medications, vital sign monitoring, and other vital aspects of care after complex surgery. For the most extreme cases, we offer a number of mechanical heart support options for patients while they recover or wait for heart transplant.

Expert care before and after surgery

At Herma Heart Center, we recognize that care prior to and following surgery dramatically affects outcomes. So we leave nothing to chance. About half of heart defects surface in tests before a baby is born, offering opportunities to plan the best care surrounding a baby’s arrival. Based on our experience and research, Children’s Hospital offers patients and families resources such as the following:

  • Our Fetal Cardiac Program, in which cardiologists specializing in the pre-birth care of infants work with parents and surgeons to diagnose problems and plan post-delivery care.
  • Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin’s Birth Center, located inside Children's Hospital, allows mothers to deliver their babies with a neonatal operating room close by. Research shows that outcomes improve when we reduce the time in getting fragile newborns into surgery.
  • Child Life specialists, who bring anxiety-reducing strategies to little patients and families, help them best manage the entire surgery experience.
  • Home monitoring for patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, an approach we initiated in 2000 and that was soon adopted world-wide based on its ability to dramatically improve survival rates.
  • Our Developmental Follow-up Program, one of the first in the nation, in which a team of doctors, nurses, and occupational, physical and speech therapists help children after heart surgery manage potential medical problems and developmental delays.

Home monitoring program

Children's Hospital is recognized worldwide for pioneering the first home monitoring program of its kind. This program dramatically improves infant survival rates after patients are sent home following complex heart surgery.

  • Before leaving the hospital, parents are taught how to track their infant's food intake, weight gain or loss and oxygen levels daily and record fever or any secondary illnesses that may appear at home. By closely monitoring these high-risk babies, we are able to intervene earlier if a problem develops.
  • Each patient has a management team made up of a core group of pediatric specialists. This multidisciplinary team includes a pediatric cardiologist, cardiac intensivist, dietitian, speech feeding specialist and social worker.
  • Our Developmental Follow-up Program offers early intervention services for infants and toddlers that have undergone heart surgery. Follow-up evaluations are scheduled every six months up through age three. A highly specialized developmental pediatrician coordinates care and evaluates your child during each follow-up visit.
  • Babies cared for through our home monitoring program have lower hospital readmission rates than competing centers that don't offer a home monitoring program.