About the Heart Failure and Transplant Program

When your child’s heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the needs of his body’s developing organs, he’s said to be experiencing heart failure. Being diagnosed with heart failure does not mean the heart has stopped working, just that it’s not working as effectively as it should. Heart failure in children can be a frightening diagnosis, but there are options available for managing this condition and delaying disease progression.

The pediatric cardiac experts in the Heart Failure and Transplant Program have extensive experience treating heart failure in children of all ages, from the smallest infants to young adults. Our goal is to investigate all of the available options that could improve your child's health and quality of life. These treatments may include medication, the use of a ventricular assist device and heart transplantation.

Medical therapy

There are several medications that may help treat heart failure in children. The drugs can help the heart beat more effectively, rid the body of excess fluids and help the body retain important minerals. Our team of cardiac specialists will evaluate your child to determine whether medical therapy is appropriate. 

Mechanical circulatory support

If your child has advanced heart failure, or heart failure that can no longer be treated with medication or surgery, she may be evaluated for a ventricular assist device (VAD) or implantable total artificial heart. These mechanical devices help the heart pump blood to the body and vital organs.

VADs and artificial hearts can help improve your child’s quality of life and help serve as a bridge to transplant — or in some cases a bridge to recovery. Our Mechanical Circulatory Support Program team works with the most advanced for use in pediatric patients — including the Berlin Heart, TandemHeart, Syncardia Total Artificial Heart, and the HeartWare VAD — and is one of the largest pediatric programs of its kind. We have used these devices to successfully support children of all ages and sizes with the most complex congenital heart defects. 

We will work with your family to ensure your child receives the most appropriate device. We will also provide your family with the education, training and support needed to help make the transition to life with a ventricular assist device or implanted total artificial heart as smooth as possible. Our comprehensive rehabilitation program also allows patients on VADs to regain strength, achieve optimal nutrition, and head home to recover or await a heart transplant.

Heart transplant

For some children with heart disease and heart failure, even the most aggressive treatment is not enough to restore health and maintain a good quality of life. These children may be considered for heart transplantation.

At CHOP’s Heart Failure and Transplant Program, your child’s transplant team includes experts from many different disciplines. Every member of this team is dedicated to supporting you and your child during each phase of the process — from waiting for a transplant to post-transplant recovery, follow-up care and monitoring.

Our program has performed more than 200 heart transplants. The team also follows about 100 transplant recipients and several hundred cardiomyopathy patients on an outpatient basis.

Our services include a comprehensive education program that will give you the guidance and training you need to make sure your child regains the best possible quality of life after his heart transplant.