Early Detection of Congenital Heart Defects at Medical City Children's Hospital

A congenital heart condition is one that is present at birth. Early detection of congenital heart defects allows for careful planning of future care, and we are proud to be at the leading edge of prenatal diagnosis.

Diagnosis

With a fetal echocardiogram, we can identify certain heart problems just 12 weeks into a pregnancy. Using fetal detection to find potential problems in utero gives us the ability to provide the treatment best suited for a successful outcome. As soon as a defect is discovered, our congenital heart surgeon meets with parents to answer questions and review treatment options.

Whenever possible, congenital heart defects are repaired without surgery by our interventional cardiologists, who deliver state-of-the-art treatments designed to correct congenital heart defects without the risks of surgery. When surgery is recommended, our board-certified physicians specialize in the very latest minimally invasive procedures.

Surgery

Congenital heart surgery is always a delicate operation, so Medical City Children’s Hospital has assembled a team of specialists who always work together to ensure that this complex procedure goes smoothly. This dedicated team consists of world-class congenital heart surgeons, pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists and intensivists, neonatologists, a core group of specialized pediatric heart nurses and a pediatric perfusionist.

The perfusionist runs the heart/lung bypass machine or, when appropriate, handles long- and short-term extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Medical City Children’s Hospital perfusionists are experienced in multiple strategies of myocardial protection, blood gas management, ultrafiltration, circulatory arrest techniques, low-flow regional perfusion and anticoagulation management.

Recovery in the Congenital Heart Surgery Unit

After surgery, our patients recover in the Congenital Heart Surgery Unit, a special area intensely focused on caring for newborns, children and adolescents with heart defects. Our dedicated staff includes a core group of nurses who focused their training on caring for children with congenital heart disease and have received CCRN® certification for critical care nursing. Additionally, pediatric intensivists are present 24 hours a day to provide high-level intensive care.

Because being relaxed is critical to healing, parents are welcome to visit their children 24 hours a day in private rooms equipped with TV, DVD and Internet access. Furthermore, we take a family-centered approach to care, encouraging family presence during surgical and medical rounds and procedures. Regular family conferences keep everyone up to date on the patient’s care plan and progress. And we keep in touch over time, which is especially useful for patients who have to return to Medical City Children’s Hospital throughout their lives for follow-up care.

Next Steps

After recovery in the Congenital Heart Surgical Unit, patients and parents are prepared for home care with transfer to the cardiac step-down area. During this time, parents will be shown how to care for their child at home and learn about any special instructions that have been prescribed. Our Child Life Specialists will spend one-on-one time with children and may encourage them to visit our two playrooms, specifically tailored for children and teenagers.

Ongoing Considerations

Once step-down is complete, we encourage parents to let their child get back to being a kid. Children have amazing recovery abilities and intuitively understand to stop playing if they overexert themselves. All patients receive ongoing care from their cardiologist, and the congenital heart surgeon will personally follow up with your child’s obstetrician and pediatrician.