Intensive Care for Pediatric Heart Patients

Photo of a woman holding the hand of a child lying in a hospital bed.
Families play an active role in care in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. They are joined by critical-care doctors on duty around the clock. “We’re focused on providing the best possible care for each individual patient,” says Dr. Carl Eriksson, a critical care specialist.

We provide Oregon’s highest level of intensive care for babies and children with serious heart conditions. At OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, we pair the equipment children need with hands-on care from highly trained specialists.

You’ll find:

  • Children's cardiac intensivists (doctors with expertise in heart care and critical care) on duty 24/7.
  • A nurse practitioner who specializes in caring for children with heart conditions.
  • Nurses who are certified in pediatric critical care and advanced life support.
  • The largest team of children’s heart specialists between Seattle and San Francisco.
  • Welcoming spaces and support for parents/caregivers.
  • A guest house where out-of-town families can stay free of charge (space permitting).

Complete care

Doernbecher's 20-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) includes a cardiac ICU. This means experts dedicated to complex heart cases are always available. Our award-winning Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is able to care for newborns with heart conditions.

Heart patients may come to our intensive care unit if they:

  • Are recovering from heart surgery or another complicated procedure.
  • Are being treated for a serious, complex or life-threatening heart problem.
  • Are fighting a severe viral or respiratory infection.

Meetings: Our team meets weekly to plan every detail of the care for each child.

Frequent consultations: We talk with you and one another frequently, often at your child’s bedside, to adjust your child’s treatment plan as needed. You and everyone on your child’s team know what’s happening at every stage. This includes seamless transitions into and out of the PICU.

Human touch: Our highly skilled specialists tailor care to your child’s exact needs. With one nurse for every one to three patients, each child receives focused attention.

An emphasis on getting your child home: We understand that some of the best healing happens at home. Our attentive, tailored care means we can often send patients home sooner. Our average length of stay in the hospital for pediatric heart surgery patients is far lower than the U.S. average — without ever sacrificing the quality of care.

Neonatal intensive care: Most children with heart conditions go to our PICU for intensive care, especially after surgery. Newborns who need heart surgery start in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before their operation. Our NICU is the only one on the West Coast with a gold Beacon Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

Your child’s team

Your child’s care team may include:

  • Neonatologists (doctors who specialize in the care of newborn babies)
  • Critical-care doctors (intensivists) and nurses, with at least one pediatric intensivist on duty 24/7
  • A highly experienced nurse practitioner who focuses on treating pediatric heart patients
  • Experts in children’s heart imaging, heart rhythm, heart surgery and catheterization who are available around the clock
  • Children’s imaging specialists (radiologists and imaging cardiologists)
  • Specialists in heart and lung support (perfusionists)
  • Dietitians who make sure patients gets proper nutrition, before and after surgery
  • Speech-language pathologists and experts in swallowing
  • Physical and occupational therapists
  • Respiratory (breathing) therapists
  • Social workers and child life specialists
Two male doctors standing and talking to a little boy sitting up on an exam table as his mother stands next to him.
Doernbecher heart surgeons meet with families to plan every aspect of their child’s surgery. For most patients, this includes care afterward in our family-centered PICU.

Support for your child and family

We offer a range of services to support your comfort and well-being during your time at the PICU and at Doernbecher.

Amenities: Parents will find a daybed, chair and bathroom in their child’s private PICU room, as well as lounges and many other amenities throughout Doernbecher. Parents are welcome in the PICU at all times, and others can visit 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

See our Resources for Patients and Families page to learn about other support services, including:

  • Child life specialists
  • Social workers
  • Palliative care experts
  • OHSU’s Rood Family Pavilion guest house, where pediatric families who live outside the Portland metro area can stay at no cost (space permitting)

Our excellence

Our marks of our excellence include:

  • Level 1 certification in trauma and surgery from the American College of Surgeons. We meet the highest standards for safety and quality in both areas.
  • Data on outcomes that we are proud to share, both publicly and with a national organization that seeks to improve surgical outcomes nationwide.
  • Designation as a Center of Excellence for children’s life support (ECMO) by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization. This national award is given to hospitals with the best care, training, collaboration and communication.
  • Membership in the National Pediatric Cardiology Quality Improvement Collaborativea group working to improve outcomes for children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and single ventricle disorders.
  • Participation in registries geared toward improving outcomes for children after heart surgery. They include the Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care Consortium (PC4) and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ registry.
  • Rigorous safety policies and a culture of seeking constant improvements. We strive to have the best policies while leaving the flexibility to tailor them to patients’ specific needs.

For families

Call 503-346-0640 to:

  • Request an appointment.
  • Seek a second opinion.
  • Ask questions.

Find resources and support.


Parking is free for patients and their visitors.

Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
700 S.W. Campus Drive
Portland, OR 97239
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Refer a patient

‘Born with a broken heart’

Ella came into the world with serious heart condition. Learn how surgery and 12 weeks in Doernbecher’s PICU saved her life.