Children’s Heart Institute is among the top congenital heart surgery programs in North America for patient care and outcomes, according to the Fall 2019 Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) Congenital Heart Surgery Database Report of 118 STS participating programs.
In addition, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital was named among the top 50 hospitals in cardiology and heart surgery in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospital” report. The magazine’s rankings consider data and information to assist patients with life-threatening or rare conditions who need a hospital that excels in treating complex, high-risk cases.
Children who are candidates for heart transplantation are treated by a dynamic, multidisciplinary team of highly skilled, board-certified physicians who are faculty members at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and are affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. They include pediatric transplant surgeons, pediatric cardiologists, pediatric cardiac intensivists, pediatric anesthesiologists, pediatric nephrologists and pediatric neurologists as well as a full range of other specialists who are readily available to provide additional support. Our transplant coordinator will make arrangements for you and help guide you through the process.
Heart transplantation has been used for the treatment of end-stage pediatric heart disease for nearly 5 decades. When a newborn or child enters the Children’s Memorial Hermann Pediatric Heart Transplant Program, the patient will receive individualized care from the same multidisciplinary team of affiliated physicians, nurse clinicians, social workers, coordinators and others, to ensure continuity and quality of care. Throughout the transplantation process, parents and referring physicians are kept informed about the patient’s progress.
Children who have severe heart failure where no medical or surgical therapeutic options are available may be candidates for a heart transplant. Patients and families undergo rigorous medical, psychological and social evaluations. Based on the results of the evaluation and previous medical records, the Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital Medical Review Board makes a decision about the advisability of heart transplantation.
Patients considered for transplantation may have one of the following conditions:
Once transplant candidates have undergone a thorough screening process, they are placed on the national transplant list and monitored while awaiting a donor heart. All children who are candidates for a pediatric heart transplant are listed through the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), which matches organ donations with adults and children across the United States. Once placed on a waiting list, patients are given a status code. Sicker children with an urgent need for a new heart usually are given higher priority. When a donor is identified, UNOS selects the patient in the region who has been on the waiting list the longest.
UNOS matches donated organs with transplant candidates in ways that save as many lives as possible and provide transplant candidates with the best possible chance of long-term survival. Matching criteria are programmed into the UNOS computer matching system. Only medical and logistical factors are used in organ matching, so that income or insurance coverage play no role in transplant priority decisions. Waiting time for a transplant is dependent on age and the status of the UNOS listing.
Please visit the UNOS website for more information about the transplantation process such as first steps, the role of geography and location, and the importance of finding an organ of the proper size.
Once a donor heart has been identified, the transplant process is initiated. Heart transplantation is performed under general anesthesia, with the child on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine to keep oxygen-rich blood flowing during the procedure. Transplant surgery may last 5 to 7 hours, or longer. Once the diseased heart has been removed, the donor heart is implanted. After surgery, a ventilator is used to help patients breathe, and tubes are inserted in the chest to drain fluids from around the lungs and heart.
Parents can expect highly personalized care after the transplant and frequent contact and visits with their pediatric transplant cardiologist and care team. All transplant recipients are closely monitored on an outpatient basis with blood work, echocardiograms and electrocardiograms, and heart biopsies.
Each child’s post-operative care is part of the individualized treatment plan created at the beginning of the transplant journey. After your child’s transplant surgery, you can expect care delivered by the same multidisciplinary team that provided care from the beginning.
After a heart transplant, parents and children must make some permanent long-term adjustments, including taking immunosuppressants, which are medications that reduce the activity of the immune system to prevent the body from rejecting the new heart. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are necessary to keep a transplanted heart healthy. Your cardiologist will also suggest that you take advantage of the emotional support services available to help deal with any stress and the changes that follow a transplant.
Receiving a donor heart can save your child’s life, but please be aware that transplantation is an open-heart surgical procedure accompanied by long-term serious risks, the most significant of which is rejection. All heart transplant patients receive carefully measured doses of immunosuppressants to reduce the risk of organ rejection.
Short-term risks can include arrhythmia, bleeding, stroke, donor organ dysfunction, hyperacute or acute rejection, infection and kidney failure. Long-term risks can include coronary artery disease, chronic rejection, infection and cancer. Your child’s transplant surgeon,cardiologist, and care team will and monitor these risks with you in detail and there will be an opportunity to ask questions.
At Children’s Heart Institute at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, patients with congenital or acquired heart disorders receive hands-on specialized care 24/7 from a team of affiliated physicians and specialty-trained nurses who aim to deliver the best possible outcomes.
Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital was named one of the top 50 best children's hospitals nationally in Cardiology & Heart Surgery by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, Children’s Heart Institute is among the top congenital heart surgery programs in North America for patient care and outcomes, according to the Fall 2019 Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) Congenital Heart Surgery Database Report of 118 STS participating programs.
In collaboration with various subspecialties, the affiliated team provides comprehensive care for newborns, children and adolescents, with the ability to transition into adult congenital cardiac care. Team members have the experience and skills necessary to offer innovative treatment methods and specialized services, including, but not limited to:
With the Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and a dedicated Children’s Heart Institute Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, critical heart patients have access to quality, specialized care. By utilizing state-of-the-art techniques, the team at Children’s Heart Institute strives to offer patients with the most complex problems the greatest opportunity for a normal life.
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To contact Children’s Heart Institute at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, please fill out the form below.
The Children’s Heart Institute is a collaboration between the affiliated physicians at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Typically, patients are seen on an outpatient basis at a UT Physicians clinic with all inpatient procedures performed at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.