Newborn heart surgery: Advanced care for the tiniest hearts

If your baby or child needs open heart surgery, few programs in the region outshine the UW Health Kids Heart Care program. Our outcomes exceed national averages and our patients typically go home in less time than you'd imagine.


Expert, compassionate care

If your baby is born with a heart condition, they might need surgery. Newborn heart surgery requires a highly skilled team with experience caring for the tiniest of hearts.

Our UW Health Kids heart care team is nationally recognized for expertise in newborn heart surgery.

Our pediatric cardiac surgery program received the highest rating from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. This means our outcomes are better than expected based on the complexity we encounter, and some of the best in the country.


Why would a newborn require heart surgery?

Heart abnormalities present at birth are called congenital heart defects (CHD).

CHD can lead to problems with any part of the heart, including the upper (atria) and lower (ventricles) heart chambers, the atrial and ventricular septae, the large and smaller blood vessels and the heart valves.

Genetic conditions can also be associated with CHD.

Heart surgery might be needed in the neonatal period for critical congenital heart disease. This means that without repair, the infant will not survive. 

Procedures could include:

  • Aortic arch repair

  • Total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR) repair

  • Arterial switch operation for Transposition of the Great Arteries

  • The Norwood Procedure for single-ventricle heart disease

  • Neonatal Tetralogy of Fallot repair

  • Insertion of aortopulmonary shunts (i.e., BT shunt, Sano shunt, central shunt)

  • Coarctation of the aorta repair

  • Repair of truncus arteriosus

  • Complex valve repairs like neonatal Ebstein’s repair

  • Pulmonary artery banding for single-ventricle palliation

  • Pacemaker

  • Neonatal catheter interventions

Treatment process

Gentle care for your little one

In many cases, we are able to diagnose congenital heart defects before a baby is born. If we suspect your baby may have a heart condition, we will perform a fetal echocardiography test. This advanced ultrasound imaging test allows us to see your baby’s heart while still in the womb.

Early detection of a heart defect allows our team to work with you to develop a treatment plan for your baby's birth and care. We coordinate care between perinatology, cardiology, neonatology and cardiac surgery. Then we can begin your baby’s care immediately after birth. 

If your baby needs neonatal surgery, our team coordinates their safe transfer to American Family Children’s Hospital. Our hospital is nationally ranked for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery.

After surgery at American Family Children’s Hospital, your baby will be cared for in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit by a team specializing in the care of neonates with heart conditions. For the few babies who then need to mature and grow after their heart condition is successfully managed, the care may be transitioned to the Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Our heart care team will continue to oversee your child’s care as they grow and develop.

Our providers

Highly skilled surgeons and heart specialists

The UW Health Kids Heart Care team includes pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiologists, pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists, pediatric cardiac intensive care specialists, specialized advanced practice providers (PAs and NPs), nurses, nutrition specialists, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupational and speech therapists specially trained to care for newborns with heart defects.

Patient stories

Overcoming obstacles

Hear from those who have been through difficult times and have inspiring stories to tell.

Elliot's story

Elliot conquers transposition VSD

Elliot's parents had a lot to manage when they knew they were expecting triplets. Then they found out Elliot had a condition called transposition VSD and would need major heart surgery shortly after birth. Our specialists helped them develop a plan of care for the triplets’ births, Elliot’s care until surgery and going home to have all the brothers together.

Watch Elliot's story
Baby Fabian, smiling.
Fabian Serna
Fabian's life saved at 7 days old

Fabian's life was saved due to surgery by the UW Health Kids surgery team and in part due to the AtriAmp, a device invented by a UW Health Kids cardiologist.

Smiling child with sign reading UW Health Kids
UW Health Kids
Our pediatric experts have served the special needs of children for more than 100 years. We focus on each child’s unique needs and offer social and emotional support to help you and your child face even the most complex condition. Our long history includes the creation of medical advances that save lives around the world. Together, we get your child back to health and enjoying being a kid.


Convenient care for you and your child

Our UW Health Kids heart care team offers surgical care at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis. We also offer outreach clinics in several Wisconsin locations and Rockford, Ill.

The exterior of American Family Children's Hospital

Talk with our pediatric heart team

Call now (608) 263-6420