Children's Hospital Colorado
Heart institute
Heart institute

Our Cardiac Surgery Outcomes Make Us One of the Top Pediatric Heart Hospitals in the U.S.

It is an honor for us to provide care to your child and your family. We work hard to ensure that your child has access to safe and effective treatments in a family-centered environment. In fact, the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado has some of the best patient outcomes of any pediatric hospital in the nation, thanks to our expert care team and cardiac research and innovation.

We understand that parents feel overwhelmed when they hear their child needs heart surgery. They might not even know they have a choice in who operates on their child. In the following video, we help parents navigate the numerous heart outcomes data available so they can make the best and most informed decision. 



“Do research before making decisions to seek care at another hospital outside of your community or state. Talk to the physicians and other medical staff who will be caring for your child. These prenatal conversations along with extensive research is what led us to pursue Children’s Colorado  for our son's serious heart condition.”
— Heart warrior mom

At Children’s Colorado, we evaluate our success by monitoring and comparing our outcomes with other top pediatric cardiology hospitals. We also routinely check and update our quality and patient safety outcomes. Transparency with our patients and colleagues is one of the keys to our success as one of the best hospitals for pediatric heart surgery in the U.S.

Here are a few examples of the many things we measure in order to ensure that we’re providing the highest level of cardiac care for our patients and consistently ranking among the top pediatric heart hospitals nationwide.

What is heart transplant survival?

"Heart transplant survival" is the length of time a patient is alive after receiving a new heart or it may also be referred to as patient survival.

Why do we measure heart transplant survival rates?

At the Heart Institute at Children's Hospital Colorado, we measure heart transplant survival in order to compare our program to others around the country. It helps us to identify any potential areas for improvement. We also use the survival information to compare how we perform over time.

Our performance is better than the national average for 30 day and one-year survival

Our outcomes are better than the national average when we compare rates at both thirty days and one-year survival after transplant. While short-term survival is an important measurement of our success, we focus equally on long-term survival and overall quality of life.

How has the Heart Institute at Children's Colorado been able to improve our heart transplant survival rates?

We have improved our results by careful review of each patient and their needs both prior to and following their heart transplant. Our team consists of an interdisciplinary team of transplant cardiac specialists and surgeons who partner with dedicated transplant pharmacists, psychologists, social workers and other cardiac team members for the best possible care. Using this group's expertise, we have been able to achieve a 100% survival in our patients who undergo ventricular assist device placement to support the heart while waiting for heart transplant.

In addition to the above team of experts, we provide cardiac rehabilitative services that help heart transplant recipients get back to good health and normal childhood activities sooner.

Learn more about the Heart Transplant Program at Children's Colorado.

Pediatric (<18 years old) heart transplant survival rate

Graphic showing pediatric heart transplant numbers for Children's Colorado and SRTR,  higher is better, Children's Colorado 100% 30-day survival (N=30), SRTR 98% 30-day survival, Children's Colorado 100% 1-year survival (N=30), SRTS 93.8% 1-year survival

Transplants July 1, 2014 - December 31, 2016

Our 30-day and 1-year survival rate is 100%. For 1-year survival, only patients with complete 1-year follow-up are included (transplants performed July 1, 2014 to December 31, 2016).

Median time to transplant (for candidates 7/1/2011 - 12/31/2016)

Graphic showing median time to transplant, lower is better, Children's Colorado 2.4 months, regional facilities 7.2 months, national facilities 8.5 months.

Median time in hospital (for patients 7/1/2016 - 6/30/2017)

graphic showing median time in hospital after heart transplant, lower is better, Children's Colorado 10.5 days, regional facilities 15 days, national facilities 16 days

About this data

What is the source of this data?

The heart transplant team at Children's Colorado maintains an internal database and reports data to the United Network for Organ Sharing. This data is publicly available from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) at www.srtr.org.

Do we have a national benchmark?

Yes, the national benchmarks are based on data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. As a heart transplant center, we regularly submit data and compare our patient outcomes to several national societies, including the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients and the Pediatric Heart Transplant Study.

How often will this data be updated?

Our internal database is updated on an ongoing basis. Results of all transplant programs’ survival rates are made available to the public by the SRTR at www.srtr.org in January and July of every year.

Our central line-associated bloodstream infection rate from 2013 to 2017

What is a central line-associated bloodstream infection?

The blood of a healthy person is typically very clean. A patient can get sick if bacteria enter the bloodstream. How do bacteria get in the blood? Bacteria can sometimes enter through the use of a central line, which is a small plastic tube catheter placed into the blood vessels near the heart (used to deliver medicine and nutritional supplements, and to draw blood tests and monitor blood pressure). Children are at increased risk of getting bacteria into their bloodstream the longer they have a central line.

Why do we measure this rate of infection?

Our overall goal is to never have a bloodstream infection. We measure the rate of bloodstream infections from a central line to be able to find ways to prevent them in the future. Our goal is to reduce infection rates, reduce potential complications for our patients, and ultimately help kids get better faster.

How has the Heart Institute at Children's Colorado been able to reduce these infections?

We have a number of projects in place to reduce the possibility of an infection, including using antibiotics before an operation, following best practices for inserting and taking care of central lines, and working with colleagues throughout the nation to develop best practices and learn from each other.

Our performance has improved from 2013 to 2017

Children's Colorado measures its Central Line Associated-Bloodstream Infection rate as the number of infections per 1,000 central line days (the total number of days patients had a central line in place). This is the measurement style endorsed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We compare our Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infection rate to the National Health and Safety Network (NHSN), a branch of the CDC, benchmarks.

We have a very low rate of CLABSI. Our team ensures that our compliance to our CLABSI bundle is 90% or greater. Our CLABSI rate for the cardiac ICU was 1.19 per 1,000 line days, and Cardiac Progressive Care Unit (CPCU) had a rate of less than 1. 

In 2017, our CPCU had a rate of 0.19 per 1,000 line days. Our CLABSI bundle compliance, which is our way of preventing infection, increased from less than 70% to greater than 90%. 

About this data

What is the source of this data?

This data is collected by the Department of Epidemiology at Children's Hospital Colorado using information provided to them by the Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery teams.

Do we have a national benchmark?

Yes. Children's Colorado uses the NHSN benchmark as endorsed by the CDC.

How often should the data be updated?

We continually track our infection rates and will publicly report data on this website.

When your child needs surgery, you want them to have the best outcome possible and you need to be sure that you can trust the hospital to give you great care. Our goal at Children’s Hospital Colorado, is to help parents make informed decisions by publishing the surgical and quality of care outcomes achieved by our specialists.

44 Pediatric cardiologists
3 Board-certified congenital cardiothoracic surgeons
500+ Heart surgeries every year
440+ Heart transplants
60+ Years of heart surgery

We're working to eliminate preventable harm

The Department of Cardiac Surgery in the Heart Institute aims to provide pre-operative consultative services, as well as a comprehensive circulatory support program, including ventricular assist devices (VAD), extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and perfusion services.

In conjunction with our hospital-wide Target Zero initiative to eliminate preventable harm, the Heart Institute works diligently to prevent surgical site infections through consistent attention to antibiotic administration and postoperative incision care.

Learn about Children’s Hospital Colorado’s preventive measures for hospital-acquired conditions.

What is surgical survival?

According to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), "surgical survival" is defined as being alive at least 30 days after a procedure and having been discharged alive from the hospital. Utilizing the STS definition ensures that consistent data reporting methods are utilized by institutions across the country. The STS database is updated every six months, and from this database, the national average is reported.

We have excellent cardiac surgery outcomes

Children's Colorado has a high success rate for heart surgery both regionally and nationally. We continue to improve our surgical outcomes through continuous monitoring of the quality of our performance. One of the benchmarks of the quality of a pediatric heart center is the outcome of children who have complex heart disease and require precise surgical repair. Care of children with this heart anatomy requires a team of specialists to help them grow and develop to their full potential. As you see in the table below, patients who have complex cardiac surgeries at Children's Colorado have exceptional outcomes. Outcomes of the other listed surgeries are used by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons as indicators of surgical quality.

The STAT categories are a data-driven method that the STS uses to compare patient complexity based on a patient’s risk of mortality from their surgical procedure. Category 1 has the least risk of death, while Category 5 has the highest risk. Our overall survival for all patients is 97.3% whereas the STS survival is 97%.

Children’s Colorado cardiac surgery survival

A heart surgery program will report its overall survival rate, and it will also report on survival rates based on the complexity of the surgery. There are five categories of complexity, where STAT 5 is the most complex. A hospital that has a high survival rate for STAT 5 cases indicates success at handling unpredictable situations during the operation and in recovery.

For STAT 5 neonatal surgeries, the most complex, the Heart Institute's survival rate is 88.4%; the national average is 85.2%. That means the chance of survival is more than 3% higher at Children's Colorado than at most other hospitals in the country.

The below graph represents our overall survival of STAT 5 neonatal patients in 2017.

Graph showing overall survival of STAT 5 neonatal patients, Children's Colorado 88.4%, national average 85.2%. Rate of survival is 3% higher at Children's Colorado.

Children's Colorado cardiac surgery volume

Table showing cardiac surgery volume at Children's Colorado. Year 2013: cardiopulmonary bypass 323, no cardiopulmonary bypass 100, other 57, total 480. Year 2014: cardiopulmonary bypass 363, no cardiopulmonary bypass 130, other 66, total 559. Year 2015: cardiopulmonary bypass 363, no cardiopulmonary bypass 136, other 55, total 554. Year 2016: cardiopulmonary bypass 355, no cardiopulmonary bypass 136, other 66, total 557. Year 2017: cardiopulmonary bypass 338, no cardiopulmonary bypass 119, other 56, total 513.

The following graph breaks down our volume and survival rates, based on the specific operation performed.

A blue-toned table that includes Specific Operation, Total Operations Heart Institute: July 2013 - June 2017, Heart Institute Mortality %, and STS Mortality Aggregate Rate %.

Children's Colorado neonatal surgical mortality by STAT category

Graph comparing neonatal mortality at Children's Colorado with STS data. Lower is better. STAT 1: Children's Colorado 0.0%, STS 1.7%. STAT 2: Children's Colorado 3.7%, STS 3.6%. STAT 3: Children's Colorado 2.9%, STS 3.0%. STAT 4: Children's Colorado 5.4%, STS 8.5%. STAT 5: Children's Colorado 12.5%, STS 16.6%.

Post-operative length of stay by STAT category

Graph showing data taken from the STS 2017 Fall Report represents data from July 2013 through June 2017, median days, post-operative stay by STAT category

Observed vs. expected mortality by STAT category

Graphic showing Children's Colorado observed versus expected mortality by STAT category compared to STS observed versus expected mortality by STAT category, lower is better

Cardiac catheterization procedure volume from 2013-2017

Colorful bar graph showing total cardiac catheterizations per year in the 800s.

Operating room safety: Cardiac anesthesia

Percent of adverse events for all operations

Graphic showing cardiac anesthesia benchmark surgeries, lower is better, ASD closure 0% Children's Colorado, 2.9% STS. AV canal repair 5.0% Children's Colorado, 10.2% STS. Fontan palliation 5.0% Children's Colorado, 2.9% STS, Glenn palliation 5.0% Children's Colorado, 9.1% STS. Norwood for HLHS 5.0% Children's Colorado, 5.5% STS. tetralogy of Fallot repair 0% Children's Colorado, 4.7% STS. VSD closure 5.0% Children's Colorado, 9.9% STS.

How is the Heart Institute at Children's Colorado working to improve our surgical survival rates?

In the Heart Institute at Children's Colorado, we continue to pursue ways of providing excellent patient care and outcomes. To continue this endeavor, we have implemented a number of quality-improvement initiatives to help improve our performance and continue doing what we do best: fixing little hearts. Some of our initiatives include:

  • Optimizing nutrition and growth of our patients
  • Reducing surgical site and catheter-related blood stream infections
  • Decreasing the number of days a patient stays in the hospital after heart surgery
  • Continuous review of our outcomes to ensure that each patient had the best care possible

The Heart Institute approaches patient care as a team. Our team consists of specialized physicians, anesthesiologists, nurses, nutritionists, perfusionists, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and lab technicians. Our team approach ensures that every patient receives the best care possible, customized for each and every child.

Why do we measure surgical survival at the Heart Institute?

Survival after heart surgery is the most important measure of the success of a cardiac surgical procedure (although it is not the only outcome measure we routinely monitor and analyze). The number of children and adults who survive surgery for congenital heart disease has increased significantly over the last 15 years, which has helped us concentrate on preventing complications that may occur during a hospital stay after heart surgery.

In addition to survival rates, the STS database includes important information about surgical complications. This allows us to analyze survival data in conjunction with complication data, so we can compare ourselves to other programs across the country. This helps us better understand how we are performing as a program, as well as, identify areas for improvement.

About this data

What is the source of this data?

This information is from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) Congenital Heart Surgery Database which is the largest congenital heart surgery database and includes 127 North American hospitals.

Do we have a national benchmark?

Yes, the STS database allows us to compare our outcomes to other congenital heart surgery programs in North America. We, along with these other programs, submit data to the STS twice per year. The STS verifies the integrity of the data and generates reports that allow us to compare results with our peers across the country.

How often should the data be updated?

We continually track patient outcomes and will publicly report data on this website.

We are the only pediatric hospital in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Kansas with a staff of board-certified pediatric electrophysiologists to treat heart rhythm abnormalities.

This expertise allows us to offer leading-edge evaluations and interventions including:

  • Electrophysiology diagnostic studies
  • Radiofrequency and cryoablation for ventricular tachycardia, premature ventricular contractions, atrial flutter, atrial tachycardia and supraventricular tachycardias, including Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome and atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia

We offer expertise in low- and no-fluoroscopy procedures, as well as implantable loop recorders; single, dual or biventricular transvenous pacemakers; and single, dual or biventricular implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. We are a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (S-ICD) facility. Additionally, we offer a comprehensive lead-extraction program.

How we are constantly improving our performance as one of the best pediatric cardiology hospitals

We continue to improve the safety and quality of care throughout the Heart Institute by thoughtful and persistent monitoring, as well as the development of new care metrics. In addition to requiring quality metrics from each team within the Heart Institute, we perform weekly safety walk rounds, which help parents and staff have a voice in directing improvement initiatives.

  • In 2017, the rate of skin injury in our cardiac ICU was less than 1, and 0 in our CPCU.
  • We continue to provide excellent nutrition and closely monitor all of our patients' nutritional health to ensure your child consistently receives the best diet.
  • In 2017, our rate of central line-associated infections was less than 1 per 1,000 patient days in our CPCU and 1.19 in our cardiac ICU.
  • We started the Transition to Home Initiative in 2013 to help decrease the number of unplanned re-admissions to the Heart Institute. 
  • We measure our daily care bundles, which help prevent hospital acquired illness.

Additional information

If you have any questions about this information, please don't hesitate to contact us by calling 720-777-SAFE.

Kara holds her son Jaxon, who is being treated for HLHS at Children's Hospital Colorado.

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