Treatments and Options for Heart Failure and Heart Transplant Patients

We are deeply committed to provide your child with the highest quality of life possible as he or she lives with heart failure before, during, and after heart transplant. Our care is lifelong and includes a smooth transition to independent, adult heart care when the time comes. In order to make the care of your child as seamless as possible, we have developed relationships with cardiologists throughout the Western states, so that we can all work together on the goal of helping your child achieve the best possible state of health and well-being.

At Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, we take a patient-centered approach to care and in our PACT program we provide your child with the highest quality possible of individualized care to best serve your child’s unique advanced heart care needs.

Our world-class treatments and options for children with heart failure and/or heart transplant needs can include:

We consider heart transplantation when your child becomes more ill despite treatment, or when he or she is experiencing significant symptoms of heart failure. We work closely with your child’s referring doctor to determine if heart transplantation is needed.

Learn more about heart transplant >

VADs are used when heart failure is no longer well controlled with medications. VADs help preserve the function of the kidneys, lungs, and liver during late-stage heart failure. For children waiting for a donor heart, VADs help extend their lives until a donor heart becomes available.

Learn more about VADs >

While surgery doesn’t usually treat heart failure, for some children in heart failure, including those with a correctible defect such as a valve that is not working properly, heart surgery is a good alternative to heart transplant.

Our world-renowned Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center surgery program team is known for providing creative, often novel surgical solutions in place of heart transplant.

For certain children with heart failure who experience an irregular heartbeat, we may team up with our pediatric electrophysiology and arrhythmia team. Together, we decide if additional therapies are needed to help your child’s heart work more efficiently. These may include special forms of cardiac pacemakers that support heart function and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) that protect against a dangerous irregular heart beat (arrhythmia).

An ICD is a specialized device that can recognize a dangerous heart rhythm and deliver a shock to the heart to normalize the beat. ICDs save lives by preventing

Cardiac catheterization empowers us to see inside your child’s heart without surgery, giving us a detailed view of how the heart is functioning, including how blood is flowing, how valves are working, and what the condition of the heart is before transplant.

It’s especially helpful when working with children who have complex congenital heart disease.

Medications can dramatically improve the heart’s function and keep children with heart failure from developing symptoms or experiencing complications. Heart medications are usually the first line of treatment for heart failure and are often enough to treat heart failure for many years. Medicines can be used alone or with supportive devices to help a heart function better, beat stronger, improve an infant’s or child’s growth, and reduce symptoms of heart failure. With all of our treatments, we develop a partnership with your child’s referring doctors and with you to ensure that medicines and treatments are working well.

ECMO is a sophisticated heart-lung bypass machine that oxygenates the blood and then pumps it back into the patient’s body. It acts as your child’s lungs when the lungs are not working properly. ECMO offers the highest level of critical care support for babies and children with heart-lung issues. It’s used as a lifesaving measure. Only about 310 pediatric hospitals worldwide have ECMO, and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford is one of them.

In our PACT program, ECMO is used as a temporary measure to support very ill children while our longer-term options are to be deployed.

Children who become extremely ill before heart transplant often receive care in our dedicated Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, where they are kept stable while waiting for transplant. Immediately after transplant, a child also spends a few days in here.

Your child will receive the most advanced around-the-clock care, with access to the very latest life-sustaining technology.

Our cardiac imaging team uses the newest noninvasive technology available, including reduced-radiation magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans. Heart MRIs show the structure of your child’s heart in multiple dimensions, while a CT scan shows the heart’s structure and also any scarring or fluid buildup and how well it pumps blood.

Our advanced technology enables us to keep your child comfortable, minimize risk, and gain more accurate images. Our radiologists are nationally recognized for their advances in pediatric imaging.