- Signature Issues
- Congenital Heart
Supporting a Healthy Future
U.S.News & World Report consistently ranks Children’s National Medical Center among the best children’s hospitals for Cardiology and Heart Surgery, a superior recognition for our adult congenital heart program.
Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect, affecting approximately 8 of every 1,000 newborns, and accounting for more deaths in the first year than any other defect. More than 90 percent of children who undergo surgery survive to adulthood, but early detection is critical.
Children’s National is home to comprehensive cardiology clinical and research teams with expertise in treating all ages of patients. We can diagnose heart abnormalities prenatally, which provides ample time to plan for treatment immediately after birth. Most of our heart surgery patients are younger than one year of age; many of them are younger than six months. Interventions for some patients may involve less invasive procedures made possible with advanced imaging to support cardiac catheterization. Many of our cardiology patients stay with us as they age into young adults. Some stay with us for life; others connect with cardiologists who care for adult patients with CHD, through innovative clinical care collaborations.
Researching the Links between CHD and Brain Development
Our teams are working at the intersection of cardiology and neurodevelopment. Blood circulation impacts oxygen supply to the brain, an essential consideration in all patients, but especially important prenatally and in newborns whose brains are developing rapidly.
Our team, is leading unique research to identify reliable early signs of prenatal brain injury caused by CHD. Her studies have shown for the first time that impaired brain development in fetuses with CHD occurs largely during the third trimester. Ongoing research will identify the earliest signs of impaired brain development, which may help define interventions to limit or even prevent impaired brain development prenatally or in newborns.
A Heart This Size Deserves Specialized Medicine
Our cardiology team is devoted to treating children's hearts throughout the journey of their life. Our cardiology care begins in utero with the Fetal Heart Program, where our fetal echocardiography enables us to detect heart defects at 18 weeks gestation, and major structures of the heart can be scanned as early as 12 weeks. And then through our work in the Washington Adult Congenital Heart Program, we provide specialized care to adults living with congenital heart disease. From the womb, to adulthood, hearts are healed at Children's National.
Read more on how our cardiology team helps hearts here and abroad.
Dr. Martin, his colleagues from the program and Children’s Child Health Advocacy Institute, developed the Congenital Heart Disease Screening Program to educate health professionals and advocate for legislation to make pulse oximetry a routine newborn screening. To date, nearly 32 states have enacted such laws and more hospitals, and health centers in Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Spain, Morocco, India, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, are using a toolkit we developed to implement CHD screening as standard practice. This early detection toolkit is changing how physicians across the country and around the world screen for critical CHD early in the patient’s life.
Several members of the our team, including Dr. Martin, presented our work in pediatric cardiology to international colleagues at the 6th World Congress for Paediatric Cardiology & Cardiac Surgery, hosted by the South African Heart Association.
This Children’s National and NHLBI collaboration brings novel therapy to our patients and, consistent with our mission, makes patients more comfortable, procedures less invasive, and recovery times shorter.
The Interventional Cardiac Magnetic Resonance program provides precise diagnostics and treatment. The technology produces high-resolution images of the heart, and allows doctors to accurately measure cardiac output, blood flow volumes, and pressure gradients.The cardiac imaging team works closely with our Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology Division. Working together, we capture anatomic and physiologic details that were previously unattainable.
Our surgeons perform the largest volume of pediatric surgeries in the Washington, DC, area, with one of the best success rates for cardiac surgery in the nation. We attribute this success to the contributions of every member of our interdisciplinary pediatric team and an integrated approach to care centered around families.
Several members of our team, including Richard Jonas, MD, Division Chief, Cardiac Surgery and Charles Berul, MD, Division Chief, Cardiology, were nominated by their peers and recognized in national media as leading experts in their specialty.
Children’s National also is one of a few programs in the country with a specialized team of pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists who provide anesthesia and pain management for patients with congenital heart disease and other cardiac conditions.
To engage patients and families in their day-to-day care, and to make their personal health information accessible to all the providers as they grow, our cardiology team developed Follow My Heart, a secure, electronic personal health record that patients can access anywhere they go. Better treatment means children with congenital heart disease are leading longer lives. Follow My Heart encourages patients to take an active role in managing their congenital condition throughout their lifetime and participating in the healthcare process.