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Information for Patients
Outpatient Services and Inpatient Units: (302) 651-6660
After 5 p.m. and Weekends:
Cardiac Intensive Care Unit: (302) 651-6644
General Inpatient Unit, 2B: (302) 651-6690
+1 (302) 651-4993
Why Choose Us
The Nemours Cardiac Center was designed, from the beginning, to focus entirely on caring for children with heart disease, from the simplest to the most complex conditions. We provide specialized, comprehensive, high-quality cardiovascular care for patients at every age and stage, from before birth through adolescence, with a family-centered approach.
At the Nemours Cardiac Center, we provide the full spectrum of pediatric cardiac care — everything a child with heart disease could need in a centralized location: heart surgery, catheterization and electrophysiology, cardiac critical care and anesthesia, outpatient cardiology, diagnostic testing, as well as fetal diagnosis and coordination of care for after delivery.
Our integrated model of care combines all critical cardiac disciplines into one department, creating high-quality care with a very clear mission.
A Comprehensive, Specialized Spectrum of Top-Notch Care
Here are just some of the reasons why you can feel confident about putting your child’s heart in our hands:
Our outcomes and quality measures are among the best in the nation, giving infants and children with congenital and acquired heart conditions the best chance for a long, fulfilling life. Whether for ventricular septal defects, coarctation of the aorta or the most complex procedures such as the stage 1 Norwood procedure, our results meet or exceed the national benchmarks from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Congenital Heart Surgery Database.
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, where the Nemours Cardiac Center is based, has earned an array of top honors:
- Ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the country for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report.
- Best Doctors in America names many of our physicians to its list, year after year.
- Magnet status for nursing excellence — we’ve earned the nation’s highest nursing credential.
- “Top Children’s Hospital” — this is a recognition for patient safety and quality for 2012 from The Leapfrog Group, which selected us and only 11 other hospitals out of nearly 1,200 participating hospitals nationwide.
- The Award for Excellence in Life Support went to our Extracorporeal Life Support Program from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) in 2013. This international award signifies to families a commitment to exceptional patient care, and demonstrates to the health care community the highest quality standards, equipment and protocols, and advanced education of all staff members.
- Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Echocardiography Laboratories (ICAEL) accreditation — our Echocardiography Department received a three-year accreditation for pediatric transthoracic (chest) echocardiography (the country’s highest level of achievement in the specialty).
- High patient and family satisfaction ratings — families consistently say they would recommend inpatient and outpatient care at Nemours Cardiac Center (100 percent said they’d recommend us in 2013, and 85 to 90 percent rank us in the highest category in patient satisfaction surveys).
Everyone in the Nemours Cardiac Center works as part of a team that specializes in diagnosing and treating children with heart problems. Many have worked together since the Cardiac Center opened. This specialization results in excellent outcomes across the full scope of pediatric cardiac disease, from the simple to the complex.
Our board-certified pediatric cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, anesthesiologists and critical care physicians lead the Cardiac Center team that also includes physician assistants and advanced practice nurses (and so many more). Our team works together closely in the Cardiac Center, allowing for instantaneous communication, collaboration and rapid coordination of care for our patients.
The children we treat also have access to more than 30 other medical and surgical specialties at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.
All of our inpatient care areas — including cardiac operating suites — are in close proximity and used exclusively for cardiac patients.
This arrangement allows for:
- smooth transfers of patients from one care area to another
- ready communication between care teams
- easy navigation by families who are rooming in (staying overnight at) the Cardiac Center
We specialize in complex congenital heart disease repair for children born with heart defects. We have the clinical expertise and experience, comprehensive care team, facility and advanced equipment necessary to care for the most fragile and the youngest patients early on — right when it matters most. In fact, 2 out of 3 surgical patients are infants less than a year old.
Through our collaboration with the Nemours Partners in Perinatal Management Program, we work with expectant parents to diagnose fetal congenital heart disease in the womb (as early as the 18th week of pregnancy).
If we detect a fetal abnormality, we can help parents-to-be to:
- seek out the best medical options for their baby
- coordinate care for as soon as the baby is born
- prepare themselves emotionally
This helps us give newborns with congenital heart defects the best chance at a good outcome, from the start.
Easily accessible from anywhere in the region, the Nemours Cardiac Center also brings our quality care to neighborhoods near you. Our physicians offer their expertise to outpatient clinics and collaborating hospitals throughout the Delaware Valley (Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey) — giving your child high-quality cardiac care when and where you need it.
Children with heart abnormalities are, after all, regular kids who may need regular kid procedures such as ear tubes and tonsillectomies, hernia repairs, eye surgery, treatment of broken bones, MRI tests, etc. The Nemours Cardiac Center anesthesiologists are available to provide anesthesia or sedation for these procedures, using their knowledge and experience to provide the special care that children with heart conditions need. Our “surgical home” program allows you, your child’s surgeon or other specialist doctor to contact our cardiac anesthesia scheduler who will take it from there, coordinating:
- the day and time of surgery
- preprocedure testing
- admission for the day of the procedure
- a plan for recovery and discharge
All of the before- and after-procedure care takes place within the Nemours Cardiac Center by the cardiac center nurses, therapists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are experts with cardiac patients and, in many cases, are familiar faces to our patients and families.
It’s not just our achievements and awards that set us apart — it’s about “family-centered care” and the connections we make with every child and every family we meet. Our patients and families often tell us how our Cardiac Center nurses, doctors and other staff quickly became like family to them. And they’re like family to us. We know you’ve entrusted us with your child’s heart — we take that responsibility very seriously. We consider you a part of our team, and we will care for your child like we would our own.
Exceptional Outcomes & Quality Measures
The Nemours Cardiac Center was designed, from the beginning, to focus on the care of children with heart disease. That singular focus by everyone within the Cardiac Center is evident in both our outcomes and in the satisfaction of our patients and their families. We take great pride in our results and the comprehensive, dedicated cardiac care we provide.
Every member of our dedicated team of pediatric cardiac specialists is focused on and specializes in taking care of children with heart disease. This specialization results in excellent outcomes across the spectrum of pediatric cardiac disease.
The Nemours Cardiac Center has been an active participant in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) Congenital Heart Surgery Database (CHSD) since 2005, and ranks among the best institutions for risk-adjusted outcomes (where the results take into account the complexity of the heart operation and the weight and age of infants).
In addition, a report on pediatric and congenital heart surgery released by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) shows that the Nemours Cardiac Center is a regional leader for surgical outcomes for children with congenital heart defects. We voluntarily participate in the PHC4 public reporting because we’re committed to transparency — being open and honest about our outcomes data. Learn More »
We see a large number of children at the Nemours Cardiac Center. From 2011 through 2014, we:
- performed 950 surgeries
- admitted 795 patients for cardiovascular surgery
During that same time period, our catheterization lab saw 1,407 patients. That includes:
- 560 diagnostic catheterizations, including 58 heart biopsies
- 547 interventional (treatment) catheterizations
- 300 electrophysiology studies
Beyond the procedures we perform, we’ve cared for thousands of children with heart problems over that time period. That includes:
- 48,000 echocardiograms (“echos”), including 2,250 fetal studies (of unborn babies during pregnancy)
- 3,900 anesthetics
- 2,900 children with heart disease admitted to the Cardiac Center
- 1,600 exercise tests
- 900 patients cared for in our Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU)
- 350 cardiac MRI imaging studies
Based on historical data from their Congenital Heart Surgery Databases and the expected outcomes for children with different types of congenital heart disease, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) and European Association of Cardiothoracic Surgeons (EACTS) place congenital heart procedures into five categories, known as “STAT categories” or the "STAT score."
The STAT score is a way of dividing procedures by how complex or risky they are. "Category 1" procedures are the lower-risk and the risk increases as the category number increases (with "Category 5" being the highest-risk procedures). It's expected that procedures with higher STAT scores will have higher risks and lower survival.
At the Nemours Cardiac Center, we frequently perform highly complex congenital heart surgery. Approximately 30 percent of the procedures we perform are classified in the two highest-risk STAT categories. This compares to only 24 percent among all heart surgery centers reporting data to the STS-Congenital Heart Surgery Database.
With a single operation in early infancy, we offer surgical repair for many heart abnormalities (including ventricular septal defects, truncus arteriosus, atrioventricular canal defects, tetralogy of Fallot and transposition of the great arteries). If necessary, we can provide extracorporeal life support (ECMO), ventricular assist device implantation and heart transplantation.
Survival in Newborns & Infants
From 2011 through 2014, our overall result for newborns and infants combined was 94.3 percent survival (or 5.7 percent mortality), versus 93.5 percent (or 6.5 percent mortality) for the national expected rate based on risk-adjustment (looking at a baby’s age and birth weight) from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) Congenital Heart Surgery Database (CHSD). In infants (not including newborns) our mortality rate during that same time period was 2.6 percent (compared to the higher national rate of 2.9 percent). Our goal is to give babies the best chance at a healthy future.
At the Nemours Cardiac Center, we have a high overall survival rate for pediatric heart surgery of 96.3 percent — placing us on par with all hospitals reporting data to the Society for Thoracic Surgeons (STS).
STS Benchmark Procedures Mortality Rates
(Benchmark procedures are a set of defined procedures which allow for the comparison of similar cases across institutions.)
- off-bypass coarctation repair, 0 percent (24 cases)
- ventricular septal defect (VSD) repair, 3 percent (66 cases)
- tetralogy of Fallot repair, 0 percent (31 cases)
- atrioventricular canal defect repair, 5.3 percent (19 cases)
- arterial switch operation, 0 percent (16 cases)
- Glenn/Hemi-Fontan operation, 0 percent (23 cases)
- Fontan procedure, 0 percent (33 cases)
- stage 1 Norwood, 0 percent (11 cases)
Other Lesion-Specific Mortality Rates
(Lesion-specific describes the mortality of patients presenting with a specific diagnosis.)
- secundum-type atrial septal defect (ASD), 2.4 percent (mortality among elective ASD repairs in full-term, non-syndromic neonates, infants and children was 0 percent)
- hypoplastic left heart syndrome, 2.3 percent
- aortic valve surgery (for stenosis or insufficiency), 0 percent
At the Nemours Cardiac Center, we want to help all of the children we treat live — and enjoy a happy, fulfilling life.
For the surgical repair of isolated, solitary ventricular septal defects (VSDs), one of the most-commonly performed procedures, the Nemours Cardiac Center had low complication rates and high operative survival among all patients. Sometimes referred to as “a hole in the heart,” a VSD is the most common congenital (present at birth) heart defect.
None of our VSD patients from 2011 through 2014 required a permanent pacemaker (0 percent), compared to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ national benchmark rate of 1 percent.
Our VSD patients also had:
- 0 percent of cardiac arrests (versus the national rate of 0.7 percent)
- 0 percent of mechanical circulatory support (versus the national rate of 0.2 percent)
- 0 percent of repeat operations for bleeding problems (versus the national rate of 0.6 percent)
At the Nemours Cardiac Center, our experienced pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists work only in the Nemours Cardiac Center and provide all of our patients’ anesthesia care for both heart surgery and any other procedures. This specialization and dedication exclusively to our cardiac patients makes our anesthesia-related complications very low. Our anesthesia-related complication rate of 1.1 percent is below the 1.9 percent incidence of problems reported in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ anesthesiology report.
Giving Preoperative Preventive Antibiotics
It’s been shown that one of the most important ways to avoid infections in surgical incisions is by giving an antibiotic at exactly the right time before surgery. Nemours Cardiac Center anesthesiologists and surgeons working together have accomplished this 100 percent of the time for the past four years. And the occurrence of a surgical site infection in the Nemours Cardiac Center has been less than 1.5 percent for that same timeframe.
Catheterization & Electrophysiology
The number of complications that occur during cardiac catheterization at the Nemours Cardiac Center is well below the 10.3 percent rate that’s reported by the National Cardiovascular Data Registry (NCDR), IMPACT Registry for 2014 for other pediatric heart catheterization sites across the country. In fact, 98 percent of our catheterization procedures have no complications at all. Our serious complication rate is less than 0.5 percent — and we’ve had no deaths related to cardiac catheterization at the Nemours Cardiac Center.
Diagnostic cardiac catheterizations are done to get detailed information about the function of the heart. These procedures are performed for children whose heart function allows them to live and play normally, but also for those who are very ill and hospitalized due to their heart problem. The overall complication rate for diagnostic catheterizations at the Nemours Cardiac Center for the past four years was less than 2 percent.
Interventional catheterizations where we perform a procedure to close an abnormal connection or enlarge a narrowed vessel or valve are considered higher risk. The Nemours Cardiac Center’s complication rate for interventional catheterizations is, again, much lower than that reported for other centers — 1.5 percent overall and less than 1 percent with a serious complication.
Our catheterization lab team performed 58 heart biopsies for our cardiac transplant patients with zero complications.
Electrophysiology (EP) studies for treatment of heart rhythm problems involve the placement of several catheters into the heart for diagnosing and possibly treating the abnormal rhythm. Our complication rate for these procedures is low, occurring in only 1 of 300 patients in the past four years.
Cardiac catheterization procedures make use of fluoroscopy (special moving X-ray pictures) to follow the catheters in the heart and make pictures of the heart and blood vessels. There’s evidence that excessive exposure to X-rays at a young age may be associated with later health problems including some cancers.
At the Nemours Cardiac Center, our interventional cardiologist uses the absolute minimum of X- ray time. Fluoroscopy times during closure of an atrial septal defect (a hole between two collecting chambers) and closure of a patent ductus arteriosus (an abnormal connection between the aorta and pulmonary artery) are considerably less than the times reported in the American College of Cardiology’s IMPACT Registry of pediatric cardiac catheterization procedures.
Availability of Catheterization Reports
Our catheterization and electrophysiology cardiologists understand the importance of making data available to the family and other medical providers who are caring for children with heart disease. Our doctors enter preliminary data into each child’s computerized medical record immediately after the procedure and make the full report available within the child’s medical record 100 percent of the time.
Families: The Center of Our Care Team
Caring for a child with a heart problem can be very stressful for families. At the Nemours Cardiac Center, we strive to make this journey as easy as possible by offering accommodations and support for both you and your child that will make your stay as comfortable as possible. We focus on your physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs so you can focus on helping your child get well.
Our patients and families say that the extra care and personal attention they receive from the entire Nemours Cardiac Center team has helped them get through this trying time. They also often tell us how our nurses, doctors and other staff quickly became like family to them.
What Is Family-Centered Care?
Parents and family are an essential part of the healing process and we encourage them to participate actively in the care of children within the Cardiac Center. After all, no one knows your child better than you do. That’s why the Nemours Cardiac Center has been a pioneer in something called, “family-centered care,” which emphasizes collaboration with patients and their families.
Our family-centered model of care means we:
- ensure that caregivers and parents are part of the same team, working together to develop a personalized plan that best meets your child’s needs
- recognize that families, however they’re defined, are essential to children’s health and well-being, and are allies for quality and safety within our health care system
- take the time to explain the diagnosis and treatment in understandable terms
- want you to be an active participant in the decision-making process
- encourage you to stay by your child’s side as much as possible
Our Family-Supportive Environment
Some of our family-centered offerings include:
- an open family visiting policy in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU)
- keeping parents with their child by allowing them to "room in" (and, if their child needs to stay in the CICU, providing accommodations either within the Cardiac Center in the inpatient unit or at the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware across the street from the hospital)
- encouraging parents to participate with their child’s care team on daily rounds (when the medical care team goes over each child’s care — discussing treatment plans and getting updates from the nursing staff)
- inviting patients and families to participate in advisory councils (hospital and cardiac) to ensure that their voices are heard
Families who’ve walked in your shoes may be a source of comfort and information. We also can put you in touch with others who are willing to share their experiences to help offer some insights and support during your child’s diagnosis and treatment.
Providing the right environment and support for our patients and their families is a critical part of successful outcomes. We closely follow measures of patient and family satisfaction to identify areas for improvement and ensure that we’re doing everything we can to put our patients and families at ease.
High Patient & Family Satisfaction
In 2013 surveys, 100 percent of our Nemours Cardiac Center patients said they would recommend our hospital. And 85 to 90 percent rank us in the highest category in patient satisfaction surveys.
Here are just a handful of the things our families have had to say about us along the way:
"The Nemours Cardiac Center was wonderful. [Our doctor] and the staff were very professional and focused on making sure we had a good experience. We highly recommend Nemours to everyone.”
"[Our doctor] and his staff in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit were amazing, have never seen a better run facility with staff who truly care and go out of their way to help."
"Love, love [our heart surgeon]! His concern for my son was unbelievable. He sensed he was nervous and knew exactly what to do for him.”
"[Our cardiologist] explained aortic stenosis in a way we could understand very thoroughly.”
"We were very happy with the nursing staff they were very nice and really seemed to care a lot about our child.”
"My son was stable within an hour of being admitted and another hospital could not stabilize him.”
"We were extremely pleased with our experience at the hospital and feel blessed to have it in Delaware. The doctors, nurses and staff are all first-rate.”
"We had wonderful experiences. [The doctors] all coordinated their care to ensure that our son was stabilized as quickly and painlessly as possible. We are following up with our cardiologist and could not be more pleased with his skill level and kind manner.”
"All of the nurses who cared for our son were extremely skilled and friendly.”
"I can't say it enough. The staff and doctor who took care of my son were outstanding. What a fantastic group of people. And I mean all the servers, the custodians, nurses and doctors — TOP NOTCH!”
"How can I put in words the care received? All I can say is, ‘You have the best!’ They work together to give everything they can — each helping the other.”
"Every nurse my son encountered was over the TOP.”
"The level of care and concern was outstanding.”
"The doctors never rush us during our appointment. They are both very knowledgeable and show their genuine concern for my daughter and her care.”
"I love the cardiac clinic. The staff makes our family feel like their family. They are always friendly and keep me informed of care to be expected.”
Inspiring Stories of Our Cardiac Center Patients
Sometimes the best support and peace of mind comes from fellow families who’ve been there. Read these uplifting stories about our Nemours Cardiac Center patients and families who understand what it’s like to have a congenital heart defect or other heart condition. Share these with your child and your whole family to help them understand what to expect — and to know you’re not alone.
- Ahsya: Left Ventricular Noncompaction Cardiomyopathy
- Alexander: Tetralogy of Fallot
- Brendan & Dylan: High Cholesterol
- Capucine: Tetralogy of Fallot
- Hannah: Congenital Heart Defects & Aortic Aneurysm
- Dalton: Arrhythmia
- Ellen: Heart Transplant
- Katie: Tetralogy of Fallot
- Lucy: Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
- Luke: Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return
- Mavrik: Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
- Michael: Aortic Stenosis
- Miracle: Unbalanced Atrioventricular Canal Defect
- Owen: Coarctation of the Aorta & Bicuspid Valve
- Seth: Pulmonary Atresia With Intact Ventricular Septum
- Sierra: Transposition of the Great Arteries & Ventricular Septal Defect
Insights and Advice From Fellow Parents
Finding out your child has a heart problem can feel scary and overwhelming. Hear some moms and dads talk about their children's heart disease.