World-Class Surgery Offers Big Help for the Littlest Hearts

About two-thirds of patients with critical heart disease are diagnosed as infants. So it’s often the tiniest hearts that need the most help—and as soon as possible. But thanks to advanced technology and our expert team of Nemours cardiac specialists, most children born with a congenital heart defect—even newborns only hours old—can be quickly diagnosed and treated right when it matters the­ most.

Our heart surgeons at the Nemours Cardiac Center (located at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE) are right at the forefront, contributing to the incredible ongoing advances in cardiac surgical management. Now, reconstructive heart surgery can help virtually all patients with structural heart disease, even the most complicated.

No matter what your baby’s diagnosis or predicted outcome, we do whatever it takes to improve the lives and the longevity of every patient we see. In 2011, we had lower-than-expected cardiac surgery mortality (death) in newborns and infants, compared to the national average provided by the Society for Thoracic Surgeons’ congenital database. That is, we have fewer deaths in babies (under 12 months old) who received heart surgery, compared to the national rate at other pediatric facilities for the predicted number of deaths in babies with similar conditions who received heart surgery. Our rate was 3.5% of the infants who received heart surgery, compared to the national predicted rate of 5%.

Nemours' Top-Notch Cardiac Surgery

Of course, each baby and child we treat is precious to us. By specializing in early detection and repair and using the latest advances in technology and research, we can give top-notch care to every child who needs our help.

How We Do It

At Nemours, we’ve become a leader in minimizing the number of operations our young patients need. The techniques and advances we use can help babies and children avoid the trauma and recovery time of open-heart surgery. Our treatment options improve the outlook for scores of kids—with less discomfort and shorter hospital stays. And duPont Hospital for Children is actually one of only a mere handful of centers in the United States where certain treatment capabilities are available.

We’re able to ensure that even our smallest, most vulnerable patients with congenital heart defects can live longer, with a better quality of life—by providing round-the-clock care from our highly specialized cardiac intensive care team (including cardiac anesthesiologists and intensivists), dedicated entirely to the unique challenges of childhood heart abnormalities.

If your unborn baby has a heart defect, close coordination among specialists is also critically important. The Nemours Cardiac Center’s fetal cardiology team works with your obstetrician and/or perinatologist (a doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies) to help plan for the evaluation and treatment of your baby’s heart condition before and after birth.

Through our new Nemours Partners for Perinatal Management Program, early in-utero diagnosis (when your baby is still in the womb) offers you invaluable time to prepare emotionally and to make sound medical and financial arrangements for your child’s care. The Cardiac Center staff is here to help educate and guide you through the process of understanding your baby’s heart defect, what will happen after delivery, and what surgical or non-surgical procedure may be required to remedy the problem.

Our goal is to give every child with every kind of heart condition, from the teeniest preemies on up, the very best possible chance for a healthy future.