Congestive Heart Failure in Children

  • We make a commitment to our patients that we will leave no stone unturned to take care of a child with a heart condition. We will think outside the box, and we will look into any possible option that may exist.

    --Francis Fynn-Thompson, MD, surgical director, Heart and Lung Transplant Programs

    Many people think that heart failure affects only adults, but it can affect anyone, including infants, children and teenagers. When adults have heart failure, meaning that the amount of blood pumped by the heart is not enough to meet the body’s needs, it’s often related to risk factors of coronary artery disease such as smoking, high blood pressure and  diabetes.

    In children, the cause of heart failure is often a congenital (present at birth) heart defect. Children born with a normal heart may also develop heart muscle dysfunction (cardiomyopathy) due to infection (myocarditis), inherited or metabolic conditions, which can then progress to heart failure. There are other causes as well, and sometimes, the cause of heart muscle dysfunction is unclear; this is known as “idiopathic” cardiomyopathy.

    • Congestive heart failure means that the blood gets backed up (congested) in child’s blood vessels.      
    • Symptoms may differ depending on which side of the heart is affected.
    • It’s a serious condition, but at the Cardiovascular Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, we have several different ways of treating it.

    The Boston Children's Hospital approach

    The Cardiovascular Program at Boston Children's is the largest pediatric heart program in the United States. We provide a full range of care from diagnostic assessment to interventional therapy using cardiac catheterization and cardiac surgery.

    Coming to Children’s means that your child will benefit from some of the newest and most advanced tools, techniques and treatments – that’s one of the reasons why we were ranked #1 in the United States by the U.S. News & World Report for Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery in 2010.

    Our staff includes more than 80 pediatric heart specialists who provide care for thousands of children and adults with congenital heart defects and acquired heart conditions each year that range from simple to complex cases.

    You can have peace of mind knowing that Boston Children’s surgeons treat a large number of some of the most complex pediatric heart conditions in the world, with excellent success rates. And we provide families with a wealth of information, resources, coordination and support—before, during and after your child’s treatment.

    Boston Children’s is also home to one of the largest pediatric heart transplant programs in the country. If your child needs a heart transplant, our team will provide pre- and post-operative care for your child and your family. Read more about the Heart Transplant Program.

    With our compassionate, family-centered team of caregivers providing expert treatment, follow-up and aftercare, you and your child are in the best possible hands.

    History of innovation

    In 1938, Boston Children’s cardiac surgeon Robert Gross, MD, performed the world’s first successful surgery to correct a child’s heart defect. Since that time, we have gained recognition around the globe for our leadership in pediatric cardiology and continue to make critical advances in the field. 

    Congestive heart failure: Reviewed by Tajinder (TP) Singh, MD
    © Boston Children's Hospital; posted in 2011

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The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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