Pediatric Heart Failure
When your child has heart failure, you may feel as if you are running out of options, but Children’s Health℠ can help. As the largest heart center in North Texas, we deliver compassionate care including specialized treatments to help even the sickest children feel better.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure occurs when the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. This does not mean your child’s heart will stop beating.
What causes heart failure?
Certain illnesses and medical conditions can damage your child’s heart muscle or make it work harder than it should. Over time this can weaken the heart muscles to the point they can no longer pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
Heart failure happens when:
- Structural problems damage or compromise the pumping action of your child’s heart
- Your child has weak heart muscles that aren’t able to push enough blood to their body.
- Your child’s heart pumps well, but doesn’t move blood efficiently through their heart.
Physicians at Children’s Health are world-class subspecialists from UT Southwestern who deliver the best available treatments to help your child live a normal life.
What are symptoms of heart failure?
Heart failure symptoms are different at certain ages.
Symptoms in babies may include:
- Poor growth
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty feeding
- Sleeping more than usual
- Lack of energy
Symptoms in older children (ages 4 and up) may include:
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Retaining fluid
- Easy fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Poor appetite
How is heart failure diagnosed?
Accurately diagnosing heart failure helps us understand more about your child’s condition so we can make sure he or she gets the best treatment possible. We start with a comprehensive exam, which may include one or more separate tests.
Your child’s physical evaluation may include:
- Questions about growth, development, family history and any recent illnesses
- Listening to the heart and lungs
- Observing symptoms
Diagnostic testing may include:
- Echocardiogram (echo)
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Chest X-ray
- Exercise tests
- Cardiac catheterization
- Cardiac MRI
How is heart failure treated?
Even if your child has a complex or hard to treat form of heart failure, he or she can get all the treatments they need right here at Children’s Health.
Your child’s treatment may include:
- Medication management: Managing your child’s symptoms and treating related health problems with one or more medications.
- Ventricular assist devices: Implanting a small mechanical device to take over the pumping action of your child’s heart. Learn more about our ventricular assist device program.
- Surgery: Repairing or replacing defective heart structures. Learn more about our cardiovascular surgery and cardiac catheterization and intervention programs.
- Heart transplant: Replacing your child’s heart with a healthy donor heart. Learn more about our heart transplant program.
- Arrhythmia management: Correcting abnormal and dangerous heart rhythms using special treatments and devices. Learn more about our electrophysiology program.
What are frequently asked questions about heart failure?
How will I know when my child needs to see a doctor?
After your child’s exam and testing, one of our experts meets with you to explain your child’s condition and offer treatment recommendations. During this conversation, we also let you know how often to come back and what to do if you have questions or concerns between visits.
Will my child be able to lead a normal life?
Yes. Many children’s with heart failure get better with treatment. In time, they are able to go back to participating in the same activities as children without heart failure.
Will my child need a heart transplant?
It depends. Some children get better with other forms of treatment such as special medications or surgery to correct heart defects. If other treatments fail to relieve your child’s symptoms, he or she may benefit from a heart transplant.
Heart Failure Resources
Learn more about heart failure: