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Your Child Needs Heart Surgery

How to choose a heart care team that’s right for you and your child

"There's something wrong with your child's heart." An overwhelming statement if ever there was one.

An important decision you need to make now is where to get the pediatric cardiac care your child needs to give him or her the best chance for a healthy life.

How to choose a pediatric heart care provider

  • Talk to people you trust. Start by asking your doctor where he or she would recommend you seek treatment. Ask family members about where they’ve had good care. Connect with other families who’ve been on this journey.
  • Find the medical center that has the most experienced pediatric heart surgeons. The volume of surgeries performed is a good measure of predicting results.
  • Review the hospital’s track record. Looking at the overall success rates for pediatric heart surgeries can be helpful in deciding where you want to get care.

The pediatric surgeons at Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center at Stanford successfully treat some of the most critically ill children—including unborn infants and teens—in the country and the world. Performing more than 700 open-heart surgeries each year (significantly more than at other children’s hospitals in the country), our subspecialty programs and renowned experts draw families seeking the best possible care for their children. 

The pediatric heart surgeons at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford have more than 50 combined years of experience and are specialized in a range of conditions and treatments from routine to complex, including pulmonary artery reconstruction, heart transplant and single ventricle management. And even though our pediatric heart surgeons treat the most complex cases, our results are better, and our patients’ lengths of stay shorter, than at other hospitals.

The Packard Children’s Hospital cardiology and heart surgery programs have been nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report consistently over the last 10 years. In addition, we’re proud to share our hospital’s results in surgery and related areas with the respected health care organizations.

Learn more about why thousands of families choose us for the advanced care their children need, and what we can do for your family.

Families travel to Packard Children’s Hospital from all over the country and the world to seek care for their children’s cardiac needs.

Patients traveling to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford for pediatric cardiac care 2015-2018

Families travel to Packard Children’s Hospital from all over the country and the world to seek care for their children’s cardiac needs.

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From 2015 through 2018, the Heart Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford performed more than 2,300 pediatric cardiac surgeries. At other hospitals across the country, that number was an average of 867.

The medical teams who perform a higher number of pediatric heart surgeries are better equipped to care for your child as they see a wider range of heart problems and they are more experienced than pediatric surgeons who perform only a handful of procedures per year.

Number of cardiac surgeries performed 2015-2018

 Higher is better 

From 2015 through 2018, the Heart Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford performed more than 2,300 pediatric cardiac surgeries.

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At Packard Children’s Hospital, we’ve performed significantly more than the average number of heart surgeries for these 10 childhood heart conditions, compared with all hospitals nationally. These procedures are referred to as “benchmark operations”; surgical centers use them for making comparisons.

Volume of cardiac surgery by specific surgery type 2015-2018

 Higher is better 

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View a glossary of cardiovascular terms to learn more about each of the conditions shown in this chart.

In 2018, pediatric heart surgery survival rates at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford were better than the national average for 2015 to 2018.

Using this chart as an example, that means that if 1,000 children were cared for across all hospitals, the difference of 0.3 percent would equate to three more children having survived following their heart surgery had they been treated at Packard Children’s Hospital rather than at other hospitals nationally.

Overall survival following cardiac surgery

 Higher is better 

Survival table


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And in the chart below, you can see that Packard Children’s Hospital met or exceeded almost all national averages for the 10 benchmark pediatric heart surgeries.

Survival rate for types of cardiac surgery 2015-2018

 Higher is better 

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View a glossary of cardiovascular terms used in this chart.

Getting treatment

  • Plan for your child’s birth. If you are expecting a baby who requires cardiac care, an interdisciplinary team will partner with you and your obstetrician to ensure that your child starts strong. Members of this team include pediatric cardiologists, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons, high-risk obstetricians, neonatologists and genetic counselors.

    If your child will require a procedure shortly after birth, we recommend you deliver your baby at our hospital so that every necessary resource is available.

  • Learn about the procedure your child will have in advance, so you’ll know what to expect afterward. Activity level, appetite, and growth should eventually return to normal after surgery. While rare, the most common complications after surgery include bleeding, irregular heartbeat, difficulty with feeding, and infection. We have processes and tools in place to help address these complications.
  • Follow your child's heart through the hospital. Every child is different. Don’t be alarmed if your child skips one of these steps or spends the entire stay in one unit.
  • Ask questions at every stage and participate in the medical team’s daily rounds, at which time your child’s progress is reviewed. In addition to the medical team, numerous staff members can offer information, support, and advice. They include case managers, chaplains, child life specialists, child psychiatrists, dietitians, financial counselors, interpreters, rehab specialists, schoolteachers and social workers.
  • Bond with your child. For all children but especially for babies, holding, cuddling, and stroking them are vital to creating a relationship with them. We will do our best to enable you to provide comforting touch, and to speak to your child often, when holding is not possible. Some children will be too fragile to be held before or immediately after surgery.

Going home

Your care team will work with you to decide when is the right time to go home, based on your child's health. There’s no one magic number for that date, but at Packard Children’s Hospital we’re proud of our efforts to get you home as quickly as possible.

Our patients stay in the hospital for fewer days for almost all pediatric cardiac surgery procedures than at other hospitals across the country. This chart shows the median number of days typically spent in the hospital for these procedures.

Typical days spent in the hospital for types of cardiac surgery 2015-2018

Lower is better 

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View the glossary of cardiovascular terms >

Follow-up care and beyond

After your child’s surgery, your physician will give a progress report to your child's cardiologist.

  • The team will arrange for an office visit with your child’s doctor to occur after you take her home.
  • As your child gets older, we’ll work with you to ensure a smooth transition from childhood to adult heart care.
  • Our Adult Congenital Heart program provides a unique approach to care with a team of doctors who specialize in caring for adolescents and adults with congenital heart disease.

Learn more

View some of the advanced pediatric cardiac procedures we perform at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, and why we may be the best place for care for your child. Our pediatric heart surgeons and cardiologists are standing by to answer your questions.

Pulmonary artery reconstruction | Heart transplant | Single ventricle program

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