Cardiac Surgery


Pediatric cardiac surgery is surgical specialty that focuses on procedures of the heart and blood vessels in children to correct deformities, congenital heart defects and delivering heart transplants.

What is it?

Pediatric cardiovascular surgery is performed to treat a variety of cardiac complications in children including ischemic heart disease, congenital heart disease, or valvular heart disease from various causes including endocarditis, rheumatic heart disease, and atherosclerosis. This specialty also includes heart transplantation.  A physician who performs these surgeries is usually referred to as a Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon.  These doctors are highly trained surgeons who spend roughly twelves years after medical school in residency and fellowship programs in order to become specialized in pediatric heart surgery.

What are the commonly associated medical diseases or symptoms?

The heart is a complex muscle that can malfunction for a number of different reasons.  In children, problems with the heart are usually due to congenital heart defects.  This simply means that the child was born with a problem affecting his or her heart.  Some of the most common heart conditions that affect children are septal defects (a hole in the heart between the left and right ventricle), arterial stenosis (narrowing of the aorta), right ventricular hypertrophies (increased musculature of right ventricle), and Ebstein’s anomaly.  This last heart condition affects the tricuspid valve, which in turn causes backflow of blood into the right atrium of the heart, causing the heart to work much less effectively.

What are the commonly associated medical procedures?

Common procedures performed to correct abnormalities in children’s hearts include, but are not limited to, aortic valve repair, arterial switches, hypoplastic left heart surgery, surgical valvuloplasty, and ventricular septal defect closures.  A ventricular septal defect, or VSD, is a hole in the wall between the left and right ventricles of the heart.

Are there any preventative measures I can take?

There are preventative measures that a woman can take during pregnancy to help avoid a congenital heart defect in their baby.  Obtaining an MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine before becoming pregnant can help to prevent rubella infection, which can cause a heart defect in the fetus.  Avoiding harmful substances such as smoking and alcohol during pregnancy can also lower the chances of a baby being born with a heart problem.  Folic Acid should be included in a pregnant woman’s nutrition, whether through diet or vitamins.  This can lower the risk of not only heart defects, but brain and spinal cord abnormalities as well.

What are the common misconceptions about this specialty?

While every child’s condition varies, there are many different thoughts about how a child should go about daily life with heart disease.  Some parents believe their child should be able to live their life to extremes and others hold conservative, careful approaches.  A recommended approach for children is to let them live as normal a life as possible. , now more than ever, to lead a normal life despite the presence of heart disease.  Survival rates of children born with heart defects have risen to 90% from 20% in the 1950’s.


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