The Norwood Procedure

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If your child is born with a serious congenital heart defect (CHD) that causes a weaker left side, your baby’s doctor may recommend a Norwood procedure. This surgery allows the right side of the heart to take over when the left side is underdeveloped. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is one of the conditions that requires a Norwood surgery.

Though widely considered one of the most challenging heart surgeries, UVA Health Children’s has excellent outcomes. U.S. News & World Report has given us a "very high" rating, the highest possible rating, in Norwood procedure survival. Our outcomes are significantly better than the national average. 

For this reason, many parents whose baby was found to have a CHD on ultrasound choose to deliver their baby here. This allows us to begin care almost immediately.

What Is the Norwood Procedure?

The Norwood procedure creates a new aorta for your child. The aorta is the main artery that carries blood from your baby’s heart out to their body. 

After the new aorta is created, a small tube, or shunt, is placed to carry blood to your child’s pulmonary artery. A patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) closure is also performed as part of this procedure.

Finally, if needed, we’ll open the atrial septal defect. This allows blood to flow back to the right ventricle from the pulmonary vein. 

What Conditions Does the Norwood Procedure Treat?

The Norwood procedure is most widely used to treat hypoplastic left heart syndrome. But it is also sometimes used to treat other congenital heart defects, like:

How Long Will My Baby Need to Stay? 

After the procedure, we’ll want to keep your baby in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they’ve recovered. For most of the babies we treat, this ends up being around 4 weeks (less than the national average). 

With around-the-clock nursing care, respiratory therapists, and cardiologists on call, we’ll care for your child during their recovery and monitor their progress to make sure they’re improving. Our NICU allows parents to stay 24/7, so you can be involved in your baby’s recovery.

Will My Baby Need More Surgeries? 

The Norwood procedure is the first part of a staged reconstruction. That means that your baby will also need 2 additional surgeries.

In a few months, your baby will undergo the Glenn Procedure. Then, at age 3, the Fontan procedure.

Your child may also need a heart transplant in the future. 

Is the Norwood Procedure Open-Heart Surgery?

Yes. Due to the intricacy of this procedure, it has to be performed as an open heart procedure. 

Can My Child Have a Normal Life After the Norwood Procedure? 

Most children recover from this surgery, and the subsequent two. Many children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome are able to lead a full and normal life, as long as they see their cardiologist regularly. Your child will need frequent follow-ups with a heart specialist.