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What Is Pediatric Cardiac Surgery?

By C.B. Fox
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pediatric cardiac surgery is surgery that is performed on the heart of a teenager, child, or infant. There are many different kinds of surgical procedures that may need to be performed on children and many different illnesses and injuries that can be treated through cardiac surgery. Depending on the reasons for surgery, pediatric cardiac surgery can utilize closed heart or open heart techniques. One of the most common reasons for performing heart surgery on pediatric patients is to correct congenital disorders.

Infants born with congenital heart defects may require pediatric heart surgery in order to survive on their own. These defects are the result of a malformation in the large blood vessels that lead into the heart or in the heart itself. Before medical advancements made heart surgery safe, children born with these types of problems would often die soon after birth or be faced with life-long health challenges. Some childhood illnesses can also require heart surgery as can serious injuries to the child's heart.

Both open heart and closed heart surgeries can be performed on children. In closed heart pediatric cardiac surgery, the heart is not cut into and pumps blood throughout the body for the duration of the procedure. Open-heart surgery, on the other hand, requires the use of medical equipment that artificially oxygenates the blood and returns it to the child's body. Both types of procedure carry a risk, though medical advancements have made them relatively safe.

Cardiac problems in children and infants are different than those that occur in adults. Surgeons must prepare for many years in order to work in pediatric cardiac surgery. These positions require that a doctor have completed a residency in this specific field of surgery. Knowledge of fetal surgery, which can be performed by a pediatric cardiac surgeon or one with a specialty in fetal cardiac surgery, may also be necessary

Doctors will only resort to pediatric cardiac surgery when the risks of not having the surgery outweigh the risks of having it. These are all serious surgeries that can be emotionally and physically traumatic for the child. The process can be emotionally difficult for the child's family as well. There are many different types of support offered to families through groups and through hospitals that can help them with the ordeal.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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