Children's Hospital Colorado

History and Milestones at the Heart Institute

We are one of the largest programs in the country treating patients with heart problems from before birth through adulthood, with exceptional outcomes.

Best Children's Hospital by U.S. News & World Report Cardiology 2021-2 Badge


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Teams from Children’s Hospital Colorado Departments of Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery, in partnership with the Department of Pediatrics at University of Colorado School of Medicine, have offered some of the nation’s best pediatric cardiac care since the early 1900s.

The Heart Institute at Children’s Colorado has grown to be recognized as one of the best centers in the nation for pediatric cardiac care. Today, we serve patients from all over the world as a renowned leader in heart care for kids and young adults. Learn more about our proud history.

  • 2015: From 2011-2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked our "heart and heart surgeries" program among the top 25 children's hospitals in the country.
  • 2015: The Heart Institute continues to be a leader of transparency of outcomes. We are one of the three centers in the USA that publicly reports all six metrics for transparency according to CNN (STS reporting, overall volume, volume by procedure, mortality by procedure, mortality by complexity, and more than one surgeon).

    The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) recognized Children’s Colorado’s Heart Institute with a prestigious 3-star rating (out of 3 possible stars) placing heart surgery program in the top 5% of all pediatric heart programs in the U.S.
  • 2014: Children’s Colorado’s Heart Institute pediatric heart transplant team performs its 400th successful heart transplant on seven-month-old patient Juniper Gelrod.
  • 2010: The first Melody® Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve is implanted on a patient at Children's Hospital Colorado. This minimally invasive, breakthrough procedure (used to replace a blocked or leaky heart valve), is an alternative to open-heart surgery and only offered at select hospitals in the country.
  • 2009: Our doctors successfully implanted a Berlin Heart (an artificial heart pump used to support patients in heart failure) on a 6-month-old boy. The Berlin Heart took over the pumping action of the heart and kept the child alive for 5 weeks while he waited for a donor heart to become available for a heart transplant.
  • 2007: Doctors at Children's Hospital Colorado deliver a baby in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab (instead of a regular delivery room) to expedite life-saving heart treatment immediately after birth.
  • 2006: The Heart Institute invests in additional high-tech resources, such as cardiac MRI and 3D-ECHO, to capture improved pictures of the heart for the diagnosis and management of heart disease.
  • 2004: Our heart surgeons perform the first ever DCD (donation after cardiac death, meaning the donated heart had stopped beating) heart transplant on a 2-month-old boy. This milestone was a first in pediatric heart transplantation, not just at Children's Hospital Colorado, but in the world.
  • 2003: The Heart Institute officially forms at Children's Hospital Colorado.
  • 2002: Children's Colorado opens its dedicated Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) for heart patients.
  • 1999: Nitric oxide is approved by the FDA for use in newborns with persistent pulmonary hypertension, thanks to the groundbreaking research of our Drs. Abman and Kinsella. As a result, our Pulmonary Hypertension Program begins its path to national prominence, and nitric oxide drastically reduces the use of ECMO worldwide.
  • 1998: A television news story about two Children's Hospital Colorado patients awaiting heart transplants wins three Emmy awards. The 9News story helped increase awareness of organ donation and the cardiac transplant services at our hospital.
  • 1992: Children's Hospital Colorado physicians Dr. Steve Abman and Dr. John Kinsella first demonstrate that inhaled nitric oxide (NO) therapy can cause sustained improvement in sick newborns with pulmonary hypertension.
  • 1991: The Pediatric Electrophysiology Program begins at Children's Hospital Colorado and is the first in the Rocky Mountain region.
  • 1990: The pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery programs merge with the programs from University of Colorado Hospital and consolidate at Children's Hospital Colorado.
  • 1989: Doctors perform the hospital's first pediatric heart transplant on a 5-year-old boy. Approximately one year later, Children's doctors performed the Rocky Mountain region's first heart transplant on an infant at 3 months old.
  • 1988: The smallest baby to receive heart valve surgery (at the time) is saved at Children's Hospital Colorado. The twin girl was born three months early and weighed just 2 lbs, 13 oz. This was the first time doctors performed a valvotomy on a baby that small, with a heart the size of a grape.
  • 1983: Cardiac surgeons from the University of Colorado School of Medicine begin to help staff the Heart Surgery Program at Children's Hospital Colorado.
  • 1975: Cardiac surgeons from the University of Colorado School of Medicine begin to help staff the Heart Surgery Program at Children's Hospital Colorado.
  • 1970s: The first heart lesion surgery is performed at Children's Hospital Colorado.
  • 1955: Dr. Charles R. "Dick" Hawes and colleagues develop a coronary artery perfusion technique, recognized as a distinct contribution to heart surgery. Dr. Hawes' leadership helped Children's Hospital Colorado usher in advanced technology and greater capacity to treat kids with heart problems.
  • 1954: Dr. Grow's open-heart surgery performed in 1953 paves the way for some of the first cardiac surgery services at Children's, including cardiac catheterization (the insertion of a catheter to diagnose and treat heart problems) and auscultation (diagnosing heart defects by listening to the sounds of the heart).
  • 1953: Dr. John Grow performs the first open-heart surgery (closure of an atrial septal defect) at Children's Hospital Colorado.
  • 1952: A Cardiac Clinic is held once a week, led by the chief resident, with visiting cardiologists once a month. The outpatient Cardiac Clinic saw 205 patients in 1952 (in comparison, the Heart Institute saw 12,350 outpatients in 2010).
  • 1946: "Cardiology" is first recognized as a department at Children's Hospital Colorado.
  • 1933: The first cardiograph machine (used to record the beating of the heart) is purchased and used to detect heart irregularities that were not previously possible to diagnose.
  • 1927: A record-breaking 44 patients (the most up to that date) are seen for heart problems at Children's Hospital Colorado.
  • 1916: The first heart lesion surgery is performed at Children's Hospital Colorado.