Pediatric Heart Failure Program

Heart failure in children is complicated and often has very different causes and treatments than seen in adult patients. These children require specialized care to prevent, diagnose and manage the condition. That’s why, in 2006, a team of dedicated pediatric heart specialists created the Pediatric Heart Failure Program at Children’s Wisconsin.

The team uses a multidisciplinary approach, taking advantage of all the expertise in the Herma Heart Institute and throughout Children’s Wisconsin, to provide family-centered care for children with heart disease and heart failure, as well as adults with congenital heart disease (present at birth).

Causes of heart failure in children

It is widely recognized that heart failure is a huge problem in adults, most commonly as the result of coronary artery disease and chronic hypertension. In children, the causes (and therefore the treatments) of heart failure are more diverse than seen with adults. Some of the most common causes are congenital heart disease, inherited or acquired cardiomyopathies, muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular disorders, and auto-immune or infectious myocarditis. Herma Heart Institute has specialized programs for treating these and other causes of heart failure in children.

Congenital heart disease is an especially complicated diagnosis as it relates to heart failure in children. In some patients, congenital heart disease causes heart failure. In other patients, heart failure can be a complication of circulation-improving treatments for congenital heart disease. In these cases, the term “heart failure” is misleading because the heart actually may be working well; it is the related heart and lung problems that cause the symptoms.

Our multidisciplinary approach to pediatric heart failure allows us to bring a coordinated team of experts together to make the right diagnosis and provide the safest, most effective approach to treatment. Our patients and their families are part of this team, all working openly and honestly together to provide the best care for your child.

Subspecialties for heart failure in children

Neuromuscular disorders (including muscular dystrophies)

Muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular disorders affect the nerves that control a child’s voluntary muscles, like the arms and legs. These disorders often lead to muscle weakening, which can impact heart function. The Pediatric Heart Failure Program team helps care for children with neuromuscular disorders with a family-friendly approach that coordinates all of the child’s specialty care into one clinic visit.

That means experts in neuromuscular disorders, lung specialists (pulmonologists), cardiologists, genetics counselors and physical therapists are all available to meet with you and your child in one visit in one location. This not only makes care easier, but also makes sure all aspects of the patient’s care are as coordinated as possible.


Cardiomyopathy can simply be defined as "sick heart muscle." There are many types of cardiomyopathy, so our Pediatric Heart Failure Program team works hard to identify the specific type of your child’s cardiomyopathy (including dilated, hypertrophic, restrictive and non-compaction). They will also work to identify related problems and, whenever possible, the specific cause of the disease.

The Pediatric Heart Failure Program also offers a coordinated program for family screening, which includes clinical and genetic testing. Exercise stress testing frequently is performed, too, to objectively assess aerobic capacity and to help patients and families know what level of exercise is appropriate.

Fontan Survivorship Program

Our Fontan Survivorship Program serves children, adolescents, and adults who are living with single ventricle heart disease, such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Learn more about this program

Contact us for more information about the Herma Heart Institute. Request an appointment online or call (414) 607-5280 or toll-free (877) 607-5280.

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Among the nation's best

U.S. News & World Report has once again ranked the Herma Heart Institute at Children's Wisconsin among the top programs in the nation for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery. This ranking reflects the excellent outcomes and care we provide for even the most complex heart conditions. Families travel from across the country, and even around the world, to receive care from our specialists who are experienced in treating congenital heart disease from before birth and into adulthood.

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Congenital heart disease is the number one birth defect. We’re working to eliminate it. Giving to the Herma Heart Institute will support cutting-edge research and innovation aimed at eradicating congenital heart conditions.

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