Laughing kid in a hospital bed

Pediatric Heart Surgery

Little hearts can have problems just like big hearts. At Providence we offer comprehensive cardiac care for children as well as adults. Our team has the expertise and experience to treat even the smallest of hearts.

Pediatric heart surgery doesn’t refer to a single procedure. There are many heart defects that children may be born with and others that develop later in life. Some are relatively minor, while others are serious. The surgery your child undergoes depends on his or her condition. We offer traditional procedures as well as innovative techniques.

Sometimes we must perform surgery immediately after a baby’s birth to correct congenital defects. Other times it’s safe to wait months or even years to do surgery. Certain conditions may require multiple operations over time as your child grows. 

We do pediatric heart surgery in one of several ways:  

Open-heart surgery  

Open-heart surgery involves accessing your child’s heart through the chest.

While your child is under general anesthesia, we make an incision down the chest and through the breastbone. Your child is asleep and will not feel pain.

We connect your child to a heart-lung bypass machine. This allows us to stop their heart but keep their blood oxygenated, warm and moving through your child’s body. 

We repair the defect, whether that’s a problem with the heart muscle itself, the heart’s valves or blood vessels outside the heart. 

Once the repair is complete, we disconnect your child from the bypass machine and start your child’s heart again. We then close the breastbone and skin incision. 


We can repair some heart defects with a thoracotomy, which is sometimes referred to as closed-heart surgery. During this type of operation, rather than opening the middle of the chest, we make our incision on the side of the chest, between your child’s ribs.

Interventional cardiac catheterization

Some heart defects can be repaired without making an incision in the chest. Instead, we thread long thin tubes called catheters through an artery in the leg up to your child’s heart. We can then pass special instruments through the catheters to complete the surgery. 

After surgery, your child will be in the intensive care unit before being moved to a regular hospital room. Before we send your child home, we give you instructions on home care, activity limitations and follow-up. Our team will work with you and your child’s primary care doctor to ensure your child gets the best possible care following their surgery. 

We take every possible precaution to keep your child safe. As with any surgery, however, pediatric heart surgery comes with certain risks. Among these are:  

  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots  
  • Emboli, or air bubbles, that may block blood vessels  
  • Heart attack  
  • Heart rhythm disorders  
  • Infection  
  • Medication reaction  
  • Stroke  

Doctors Specializing in Pediatric Heart Surgery

At Providence, you'll have access to a vast network of dedicated and compassionate providers who offer personalized care by focusing on treatment, prevention and health education.