While it’s something no parent should have to deal with, every year thousands of families learn that their child has a congenital heart defect. With new technologies, heart defects are becoming easier to live with and some diseases can even be addressed through surgery.
However, not all pediatric surgical centers are created equal. Conducting delicate, open-heart surgeries on children and especially infants, is a task that not all surgeons and surgical centers are equipped for. If you or someone you know has a child with a congenital heart defect, here are some helpful tips – written in collaboration with Charles D. Fraser, Jr., MD, Chief of the Division of Congenital Heart Surgery at Baylor and Co-Director of the Texas Children’s Heart Center – for finding the best pediatric heart surgeon for you. More can be found in this recent CNN article, also featuring Dr. Fraser.
Do your homework
First and foremost, do research on the congenital heart defect your child has. It is important to understand the disease so that you know what questions to ask your physician and surgeon. Many of the defects can be complex and difficult to understand, but don’t be afraid to ask your medical team to explain it to you more in depth.
Also, be sure to research surgeons and the hospitals they work at. Take a look at the Top-Ranked Pediatric Hospitals for Cardiology & Heart Surgery and don’t be afraid to travel to a hospital that will best suit you and your child’s needs.
Get the facts
It’s important to request specific data. When asking a doctor how many surgeries he has done, “tons,” or “numerous,” are not good enough answers. Ask for specific numbers. Most top hospitals will have their outcome data available on their websites. If they don’t have the data available, or are not willing to share it, that’s a red flag. If you’re interested in reading about Texas Children’s Heart Center outcomes, they are available online.
Ask for advice
Ask for advice from other parents of children who have had open-heart surgery or have a similar defect than your child. Not only does this serve as a great support system, but these parents have been there and can suggest good questions to ask.
Ask for a second opinion
Be wary of any surgeon or hospital that discourages you from asking for a second opinion.
In the end, you are the parent and know what’s best for your child. Find a medical team that you believe will provide the best medical care for your child and allow you to be a part of the process. Family-centered care is a key tenant at Texas Children’s and we believe that involving parents leads to better outcomes for our patients.