Pediatric Heart Transplant

We are one of South Florida’s most active pediatric heart transplant centers and have a team of dedicated heart transplant specialists.

Call Memorial Transplant Institute to schedule an appointment or to learn more


When a child is struggling against worsening heart failure from a severe cardiomyopathy or congenital heart disease, a heart transplant can offer a second chance at life.

For more than 11 years, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Heart Institute has been providing lifesaving expertise for children’s heart transplants. As one of the most active pediatric heart transplant programs in Florida our team of specialists provide extraordinary, patient- and family-centered care for children with life-threatening heart conditions that cannot be helped with conventional surgery or medical management.

11 years of expertise, 71 transplants, one of only 3 pediatric heart transplant programs in Florida 

Now more than ever, families can place their trust in us to safely care for their children when it matters most.

What Is a Heart Transplant?

A heart transplant replaces a child’s failing heart with a healthy heart from a deceased donor. After a transplant, children need lifelong anti-rejection medications and follow-up for their transplanted heart. With their new heart, many children are able to focus again on what they couldn’t before: being a kid.

Children who need heart transplants go on a transplant waiting list, based on how severe their condition is. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) manages the waiting list for every patient in the nation.

Why Choose Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital for Heart Transplant?

Recognized for its excellence and comprehensive approach to cardiac care, our pediatric heart transplant program offers:

Outstanding outcomes

We do everything we can at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital to ensure a successful transplant. We also work with families long-term, to help children continue to thrive at home.

Learn more about our outcomes.

National reputation

We started our heart transplant program in 2010 and have become one of the most active pediatric heart transplant centers in Florida. As leaders in transplant care in the state, we offer a second chance at life for children in and around Florida.

Learn more about our story and how we built the heart transplant program to fill a need for this area’s sickest children.

Dedicated team of specialists

Multiple specialists come together to prepare and care for transplant patients before, during and after surgery. The transplant team includes:

  • Cardiologists, including transplant cardiologists, interventionalists, electrophysiologists, and heart imaging experts
  • Cardiac surgeons, including transplant, mechanical support/VAD (ventricular assist device) and congenital surgeons
  • Nurses and nurse practitioners who specialize in transplant, heart failure and VAD careIntensivists, who specialize in pediatric critical care medicine
  • Pediatric subspecialists, including cardiac anesthesiologists, infectious disease experts and others
Support for families

When you come to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, we’ll treat your child as we would our own. We understand how scared and overwhelmed parents can be. We take a patient- and family-centered approach, from your first appointment to lifelong follow-up care. We want to make children well again and support your whole family in the process.

Find out about our resources for families.

Access to adult heart transplants

The success of our heart transplant program laid the groundwork for the adult heart transplant program within Memorial Healthcare System. Learn more about Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute. Our companion adult heart transplant program at Memorial Regional Hospital, on the same campus as Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, ensures that our grown-up pediatric transplant recipients can receive expert, lifelong care for their transplanted heart.

Call Memorial Transplant Institute to schedule an appointment or to learn more


Journey to a Heart Transplant

Learning that your child’s heart will not be strong enough to carry them into adulthood can produce a range of emotions – from shock and confusion to anxiety and fear. We have conversations with parents and children sooner, rather than later, about what a heart transplant means and what’s involved.

At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Heart Institute, we guide families, step by step, from initial diagnosis to lifelong follow-up after surgery. We find that when we explain the process and answer questions, parents and children feel more prepared. Below, we have briefly outlined the steps in the journey to a heart transplant.

What Are the Steps in the Journey to a Heart Transplant

Transplant Evaluation

Transplant evaluation is about gathering information and determining if your child is a good candidate for heart transplant.

At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, we usually split the formal evaluation process into two half-day visits, so that it’s not too much information all at once. During the evaluation, you will meet with many different people, including:

  • Cardiologists and imaging specialists who conduct a series of tests to examine your child’s heart and immune function
  • Heart transplant surgeons who will discuss the surgery they will perform
  • Financial specialist who goes over your insurance benefits and answers any financial questions
  • Nurse practitioner to review consent documents
  • Psychologist and social worker to talk with you about the social and emotional aspect of transplant
  • Additional specialists involved in caring for your child’s health before, during and after the transplant, such as a nutritionist, pharmacist and Child Life specialist
Getting on the Transplant List

As part of the evaluation process, we discuss possible alternatives to heart transplant, including medical and surgical therapies. A child who is not a candidate for alternative therapies may be eligible for a transplant.

For children who are potential heart transplant recipients, we will discuss their condition and outlook with you. With your agreement, we will list your child for cardiac transplantation at our center.

We will also place your child on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) list, which is a national waiting list. Children are listed with UNOS according to their level of medical urgency, their blood type and their body size.

We continue to care for children during this waiting period, keeping in mind that:

  • Children with severe heart failure may have to wait in the hospital. These children will have a higher position on the UNOS list. They may require a ventricular assist device (VAD) to support them until the time of transplant.
  • For children who can wait safely at home, we will see them monthly or more often to make sure their condition isn’t worsening.
  • Waiting at home may require special equipment such as an automated external defibrillator (AED) to help care for your child.
Heart Transplant Surgery

When a heart becomes available, UNOS notifies our team, and we let you know immediately. You’ll need to be ready to come to the hospital right away when a heart becomes available for your child.

Because time is of the essence:

  • You must come to the hospital as soon as you are called.
  • Our team travels to the donor hospital to retrieve the organ as quickly as possible, within hours of getting the call.
  • We prepare your child for the surgery, so that our surgical team and your child are ready as soon as the organ retrieval team arrives with the heart.

A heart transplant operation may take hours to complete. We keep parents informed every step of the way, so you always know exactly what is happening with your child.

Recovery After Surgery

After the surgery, we bring children to recover in the cardiac ICU, where parents can join them. In the ICU:

  • Your child will be on a ventilator (breathing machine) right after surgery. We wean children off the ventilator as soon as they can breathe on their own again.
  • Intensive care specialists and the transplant team will care for your child 24/7, including managing immunosuppression. Immunosuppression includes medications that lower the immune system to prevent a child’s body from rejecting the heart.
  • Immediately after surgery and during recovery, your child will be receiving medication intravenously (via an IV). We will work to get your child on oral medications as soon as your child is ready.

The majority of children leave the hospital within two weeks after their heart transplant surgery.

Follow-Up After Heart Transplant

After you and your child go home from the hospital, you’ll come back for frequent follow-up visits to see how they are adjusting to their new heart. We ask you to stay close for the first 4-6 weeks after transplant, so that your child can visit the clinic frequently.

During these visits, we will monitor your child’s overall health and check for organ rejection. We’ll also perform blood draws and other testing. Conine Clubhouse, located across the street from Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, offers short-term housing for our families.

We’ll continue to provide care for transplant recipients through adulthood. As adults, they “graduate” into our adult heart care program at Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute.

Da’realis’, patient testimonial

Da’realis’ Family Experiences Joyful Moment After Heart Transplant

Da’realis went from severe heart failure to doing phenomenally well after receiving a pediatric heart transplant at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.

Call Memorial Transplant Institute to schedule an appointment or to learn more

Timothy's Heart Transplant Journey

Timothy's Heart Transplant Journey

Follow the events in Timothy's heart transplant journey as they unfold at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.
Terique’s “Rainbow Moment” Heart Transplant Story

Terique’s “Rainbow Moment” Heart Transplant Story

See why Terique's family is living a rainbow moment after his Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital heart transplant.
Johnny's Heart Surgery Survivor Story

Johnny's Heart Surgery Survivor Story

See how Johnny, who had heart surgery in 2012, returns to run the Tour de Broward 5K, with his heart surgeon.
Da'realis, who had a heart transplant

Moments that Count - Da’realis’ Heart Transplant

Da’realis went from severe heart failure to doing phenomenally well after he received a new heart. Watch to see how he had been in and out of hospitals his whole life until our children’s heart experts including pediatric cardiologists Svetlana Shugh, MD, and Laura D’Addese, MD, diagnosed his Kearns-Sayre syndrome, a genetic condition Da’realis was born with.
Team Performs Two Pediatric Heart Transplants Within 24 Hours

Team Performs Two Pediatric Heart Transplants Within 24 Hours

JDCH Teen receives heart transplant on his birthday

JDCH Teen receives heart transplant on his birthday

When it came time to blow out his candles on his 14th birthday, Estefano had only one wish: a new heart.

Later that same evening, the Pediatric Heart Transplant team at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital surprised him with a phone call that made his wish come true. They found a heart for him, making the Weston teen the hospital’s 30th heart transplant recipient. He went home last week to enjoy his second chance at life and just in time to enjoy the holidays with his family.

Child Life Program

Our therapy dogs lend a helping paw.