Personal Health

What Congenital Heart Disease Means for Your Child

Congenital heart defects are the most common of all birth defects. But if your child is diagnosed with one, it feels like you’re entering strange, uncharted territory. Instead of welcoming your newborn to a cozy nursery at home, you’re glued to the hospital, immersed in a crash course on an unfamiliar condition such as ventricular septal defect, tetralogy of Fallot or hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Under pressure, you’re deciding where to take your child for potentially life-saving surgery and ongoing care.

As a new U.S. News analysis shows, patients needing risky operations do better at high-volume hospital centers where more congenital heart surgery procedures are performed. Below, a top cardiac surgeon and parents who’ve been there provide insight on questions to ask and what you should look for when making these vital decisions.

Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr., the surgeon-in-chief and chief of congenital heart surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, emphasizes the importance of choosing centers with the most extensive experience in procedures for specific conditions. “Some of it is intuitive and some of it, quite frankly, is common sense,” he says. “There are some data, also, that point to the reality that better outcomes are achieved at centers that do larger volumes of care.”

Convenience of a location near home, or the desire to avoid a transfer, isn’t a good-enough reason alone to choose a hospital for these types of conditions. “I usually challenge people who are making the decision based on a convenience factor, although convenience is certainly important,” Fraser says. “But with many of these decisions, once they’re made, you can’t recover.”

Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll


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Hospital Ranking information as of June 27th, 2017

Lisa Esposito, Staff Writer

Lisa Esposito has been a patient advice reporter for U.S. News since 2014, writing about …  Read more

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