Children's Hospital Colorado

Pediatric Cardiology Quality and Patient Safety

A close-up of a stethoscope on a patient's chest. Best Children's Hospital by US News Cardiology 2020-1 Badge

“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 choose Children’s Colorado for our son's serious heart condition.”

— Heart warrior mom

Quality and patient safety at the Heart Institute

It’s an honor to care for your child and your family. Every day, our pediatric cardiology team works diligently to ensure that your child has access to safe and effective treatments in a family-centered environment.

In the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado, we routinely track and report important quality and patient safety metrics to ensure that patient families have an inside view into how we perform. We also publicly report and compare our outcomes with other top pediatric heart centers. Transparency with our patients and colleagues is one of the keys to our success as a top pediatric hospital.

As the largest pediatric heart program in the region, we perform more than 500 heart surgeries and nearly 1,000 heart catheterization procedures per year. Our highly specialized pediatric heart surgeons and interventional cardiologists take on the most complex congenital heart defects (CHDs) and childhood heart conditions and achieve some of the best results in the nation.

Why experience and transparency matter

When your child needs heart surgery, you want the best pediatric heart surgeons to treat them. But how do you know who’s the best?

All pediatric heart centers keep track of how many operations they perform and how many patients survive these surgeries – but many centers do not share their statistics with the public.

Here at the Heart Institute, we believe in empowering families by providing statistics on mortality, volumes, hospital-acquired conditions and patient satisfaction scores up front. Providing this information is not only the right thing to do, it pushes our team to get better and better. It also gives you peace of mind.

Dunbar Ivy, MD at Children's Hospital Colorado.
"We're transparent about our results so that parents can make informed decisions about their child's care. I’m proud to be part of a team that adheres to this level of openness and accountability."
Dunbar Ivy, MD

Children’s Colorado is the only pediatric heart center in Colorado and one of few in the region to share quality metrics and outcomes data. We make this information available here on this website and also report to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and Conquering CHD's family-friendly Hospital Navigator.

Our cardiac surgery and transplant outcomes

The most serious heart conditions typically require open heart surgery or a heart transplant. If your child needs surgery, the most important quality and patient safety metrics are called “outcomes.” (Essentially, success rates.)

At Children’s Colorado, our cardiac surgery and heart transplant outcomes are among the best in the country:

See the complete list of our pediatric cardiac surgery outcomes and pediatric heart transplant outcomes.

Cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology volumes

Another important measure of success for a hospital’s pediatric cardiology program is volume, which is the number of surgeries or procedures the hospital performs each year. Performing a higher number of procedures (higher volume) means that the team has more experience with these operations. Studies have shown that this experience correlates to better patient outcomes.

Reference the charts below to learn the number of surgeries and minimally invasive procedures we’ve performed since 2016.

Cardiac surgery volume

Cardiac surgery volume indicates the number of heart surgeries performed at a hospital. More complex surgeries require surgeons to use cardiopulmonary bypass, a machine that does the work of the heart and lungs while they repair the heart.

Heart surgeries at Children’s Colorado

Bar chart showing the number of cardiac surgeries at Children’s Colorado since 2016. 2016: 557; 2017: 513; 2018: 516; 2019: 598
Operation type 2016 2017 2018 2019
Cardiopulmonary bypass 355 338 326 375
No cardiopulmonary bypass 136 119 121 137
Other 66 56 69 86
Total 557 513 516 598

Our heart surgeons perform more than 500 surgeries per year, making the Heart Institute at Children’s Colorado a high-volume center with vast experience treating even the most serious CHDs.

Cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology procedure volume

Thanks to research and innovation, our team can now treat many defects that used to require surgery with a minimally invasive procedure called cardiac catheterization. Our electrophysiology team can also treat many heart rhythm issues (called arrhythmias) in the electrophysiology lab. The charts below show our team’s vast and growing experience performing these procedures.

Bar chart showing the number patients who have received cardiac catheterizations at Children’s Colorado since 2016. These include electrophysiology interventions. 2016: 850; 2017: 821; 2018: 944; 2019: 988
Bar chart showing the number of electrophysiology interventions at Children’s Colorado since 2016. 2016: 217; 2017: 169; 2018: 197; 2019: 214

These volumes indicate that our interventional cardiology team has experience treating hundreds of kids, teens and adults with heart disease each year.

As a high-volume center, our cardiology team treats a wide variety of congenital defects and pediatric heart conditions. This means that children and teens who come to the Heart Institute for treatment have a team that’s seen and treated their condition before, even if it’s rare.

"We think it’s important for families to know our outcomes and be able to ask any question about our experience with their child’s particular diagnosis."
James Jaggers, MD

Quality in cardiac imaging

Our imaging team provides state-of-the-art images that help our providers understand the medical and surgical needs of every patient. Our advanced capabilities include:

We continuously monitor image quality and accuracy. One way we do it: comparing the echocardiography images to what the surgeon sees in the operating room.

Minor discrepancies mean that a minor anomaly, shunt or cardiac mass that would not affect patient care was not detected in imaging. The major discrepancies definition means that a major anomaly, shunt or cardiac mass that would affect patient care was not detected before surgery.

Graph showing the percentage of minor and major imaging discrepancies (out of all images, or 100%) by year at Children’s Colorado. 2016: Minor = 3.1%, Major = 0.2%; 2017: Minor = 5.6%, Major = 0.0%; 2018: Minor = 3.5%, Major = 0.4%; 2019: Minor = 4.6%, Major = 0.5%

Since 2016, less than 6% of all cardiac images taken in the Heart Institute have had minor discrepancies, and less than 1% have had major discrepancies. Our imaging team is helping set national standards for quality in pediatric heart imaging.

Hospital-acquired conditions

In the Heart Institute, we also measure and report what are called “hospital-acquired conditions.” These are complications that patients develop during treatment. Many hospital-acquired conditions are preventable, which is why we continuously work to prevent complications.

One of the risks for kids who need heart surgery is a central line-associated bloodstream infection.

What is a central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)?

When a patient is in the hospital for heart surgery, we place a small plastic tube called a catheter into the blood vessels near the heart. This is called a central line. Central lines are used to:

  • Deliver medication
  • Deliver nutritional supplements
  • Draw blood for blood tests
  • Monitor blood pressure

Sometimes, bacteria enter a patient’s central line, which means these bacteria can enter the patient’s bloodstream and make the patient sick. This is called a central line-associated bloodstream infection, or CLABSI. The longer patients have a central line, the higher the risk of them getting a CLABSI.

Why do we measure CLABSIs?

Our goal is to never have a bloodstream infection. We measure the CLABSI rate to learn how 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.

Recent CLABSI rates at the Heart Institute

We measure CLABSIs in both of our inpatient units, the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) and the Cardiac Progressive Care Unit (CPCU). Heart programs measure and report CLABSI rates by the number of CLABSIs per 1,000 line days.

In 2018, we noted an increase in our CLABSI rate and have focused on decreasing our rate through close monitoring and care of central lines.

  • In 2019 in our CICU, CLABSIs decreased from 2.03 per 1,000 line days to 1.82 per 1,000 line days. This means 6 patients had a CLABSI in 2019 out of a total 3,288 line days.
  • In 2019 in our CPCU, CLABSIs decreased from 1.17 per 1,000 line days to 0. This means none of our patients had a CLABSI in 2019 out of a total 2,317 line days.

How are we working to reduce CLABSIs?

Our goal is to constantly and consistently improve. We have several 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
  • Working with colleagues throughout the nation to develop best practices and learn from each other

Additional heart care quality indicators

Aside from CLABSIs, we continue to improve the safety and quality of care by thoughtfully and persistently monitoring other quality indicators. In addition to requiring quality metrics from each team within the Heart Institute, we perform weekly safety walk-arounds, which help parents and staff have a voice identifying needs and directing quality improvement initiatives.


  • In 2019, we included stage II pressure injuries (injured skin such as bedsores) in our overall quality metric to help reduce our rate of skin injury (>stage I injury) in both our CICU and our CPCU. The incidence of a pressure injury for our patients was 1% per 1,000 patient days.
  • We continue to provide excellent nutrition and closely monitor patients' nutritional health to ensure your child consistently receives the best diet. We have protocols in place to ensure safe transition to oral feeds.
  • We measure our daily care bundles and report our compliance to our team and hospital leaders weekly. This helps prevent hospital acquired illness. Care bundles are techniques and tasks that have been proven to help prevent hospital-acquired conditions.

Learn more about preventing hospital-acquired conditions at Children’s Colorado.

Patient experience

In the Heart Institute, our goal is to provide excellent care for both patients and their families. One way we measure this is by recording and reporting patient satisfaction scores.

In 2019, families rated their experience at the Heart Institute a 9 or 10 (on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest) as follows:

Additional resources

We’re committed to providing information and resources before, during and after your visit to the Heart Institute. Visit the links below to learn more.

Contact us

If you have any questions about this information, please don't hesitate to contact us by calling 720-777-6820.