Kids and Heart Surgery


“In the newborn population, there are many [heart] conditions that may need surgery. One of the things to remember is that these types of surgery that are being done in the newborn period are relatively new, at least in the past 10 to 20 years,” says Dr. Joanne Starr. “Because of the technology, now we’re able to perform complex surgeries.”


“When a baby is born with what’s called transposition of the great vessels, the two major arteries that come out of the heart are switched around,” says Dr. Starr. “The artery that’s supposed to go to the body is going to the lungs and the one that’s supposed to go to the lungs is going to the body. So the blood is mixed and the patient is blue, and that requires surgery in the newborn period.”


“Congenital heart disease is a defect that forms while the baby is in the womb and the child is born with it, as opposed to an adult, who has coronary artery disease that’s acquired,” says Dr. Starr. “We usually separate out the disease into two categories: those who have enough blood flow to the lungs and those that do not,” says Dr. Starr.


Before, during and after your child’s heart surgery, CHOC’s specialized team of doctors and nurses prepare parents for what to expect, including what their child will look like. Many parents wonder if their child will be like other kids after surgery. “Very frequently the answer is yes,” says Dr. Starr. “They may have special needs, but if you go to a playground you won’t know the difference between a child that’s had heart disease and a child that hasn’t,” she says.


  • The number of congenital heart disease cases that CHOC handles yearly: 200 – 300
  • Number of hours heart surgery can last: 3 to 4 hours
  • Number of beds in CHOC’s Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit: 12

Meet Dr. Starr - CHOC Congenital Cardiothoracic Surgery Specialist

Dr. Joanne Starr is a member of the Society for Thoracic Surgeons and the Congenital Heart Surgeons Society. She previously served as director of the cardiac surgery program at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey and as an associate professor at the New Jersey Medical School.

Dr. Starr’s philosophy of care: “Each patient is different and you have to treat each patient as a unique patient. It’s not just about the heart, it’s about the whole child and their family.”

New York Medical College

General and Thoracic Surgery

Dr. Joanne Starr

What to Expect in CVICU

Patients who have undergone complex, cardiovascular procedures at the CHOC Heart Institute require specialized care and attention. At CHOC, they get just that in a dedicated, 12-bed Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU).

In CHOC’s CVICU, children receive attention from pediatric cardiac-trained intensivists, nurse practitioners, critical-care registered nurses, and an interdisciplinary medical team. All rooms are private and fully equipped with leading-edge technology that meets the demands of monitoring and treating children with heart problems, and those who have undergone complex heart surgery and heart catheterization procedures.

Smiling mom and child

Cardiac MRI

In this segment of American Health Journal, Dr. Pierangelo Renella, CHOC, talks about Cardiac MRI, the advanced non-invasive imaging technique for diagnosing heart defects. For more information about the Heart Institute, go to

Heart Tech: Question and Answer

With exciting technology at every turn, The Bill Holmes Tower at CHOC is filled with the latest equipment and innovations – and the CHOC Heart Institute is no exception. Set to open in the new space next month, the Heart Institute and its Heart Center boasts advanced technology that will help physicians ensure successful patient outcomes.

Dr. Anthony Chang

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