Pediatric Heart Surgery Research & Innovation

As part of a major national research university with a strong focus on heart research, we are always exploring new treatments, devices, and surgical care approaches to improve heart care for your child. Our exceptionally skilled heart surgery team and our commitment to research and innovation are why we can take on some of the most complex heart conditions in children and still achieve impressive outcomes.

Research and innovation highlights

Our physician-researchers have developed new scientific studies and technological innovations that have led to groundbreaking heart treatments. Highlights include:

We’ve teamed up with a Silicon Valley company to develop EchoPixel, which digitally converts computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans into 3-D images that allow our cardiologists to examine every layer of your child’s heart and virtually run through their heart surgery prior to the actual operation. This technology results in increased accuracy for heart surgeons and improved outcomes for your child with complex or rare heart disease.

Our Stanford Medicine 3D and Quantitative Imaging Laboratory creates a physical 3-D model of the heart of every child with a complex or rare structure heart defect so they can study it in detail prior to heart surgery. Heart surgeons in our Complex Biventricular Reconstruction Program use it to evaluate the best multistep surgical repairs that they need to perform to bring your child’s complex congenital heart as close as possible to normal anatomy. This exciting innovation often means better outcomes for your child with a complex heart.

This invention helps us determine the best surgical plan for your child. It uses biomechanics to empower heart surgeons to test different surgical options before your child’s heart surgery and select the one that will produce the best blood flow in and out of the heart—ultimately helping your child feel their best. The digital map helps optimize surgical plans, reduce risk, and improve outcomes for children with complex congenital heart conditions.

Using a voice-activated robot equipped with a tiny fiber-optic camera that projects images on a computer screen, the heart surgeon can go directly to the problem area without stretching heart tissues or deforming delicate structures. Since robot surgery uses only three small incisions—one for the camera and two for surgical instruments—this approach minimizes pain and trauma. It also makes possible a heart surgery at a distance, in which a physician on a computer at the Moore Children’s Heart Center performs a procedure on your child miles away in an operating room in your home community.

Frank Hanley, MD, invented unifocalization, a procedure used to treat tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia and major aortopulmonary collateral arteries, and he’s known as the worldwide expert on this procedure. We underwent a retrospective review of pediatric patients treated at Stanford Children’s who required unifocalization. The study concluded that when using an approach that emphasized early complete unifocalization and repair that incorporated all pulmonary vascular supply, our patients had excellent results, whether it was a first-time repair or a previous surgery.

We are always looking for ways to improve children’s lives in the least invasive manner. That’s why we took two of our flagship procedures at Stanford Children’s—pulmonary artery reconstruction and heart transplant—and rolled them into one to help some children who are likely facing a heart-lung transplant. We are the first in the world to perform this highly complex but life-changing operation, which we named PARplant. The surgery gives children who are candidates for this procedure a better chance at survival that is significantly superior to that afforded by a heart-lung transplant, and it is a preferred surgical approach especially with overall limited availability of donor lungs.