Heart Failure

Transforming outcomes for children with heart disease and heart failure.

Child heart check

Childhood heart disease and heart failure

There are two major types of childhood heart disease. The first is congenital heart disease, where defects often develop before birth. Over 2,400 Australian babies a year are affected, with half requiring surgical interventions. The second type is acquired heart disease. Largely diagnosed after birth, damage to the heart can result from other diseases such as viral infections or medical treatments. Two common situations increasing the risk of acquired heart disease are rheumatic fever and chemotherapy. Both types of heart disease increase a child’s chance of heart failure and the need for transplantation.

Because of medical and surgical advancements, many children with heart disease are now surviving into adulthood. However, once heart tissue is damaged it has a very limited capacity for self-repair, and hence the fight to prevent the onset of heart failure in these children begins. Coincidently, the incidence of heart failure in survivors of childhood heart disease is on the rise and represents one of the greatest burdens on our hospital systems. Once heart failure is established, the prognosis is grim, with an 50% survival rate within 5 years of diagnosis.

To address this, Melbourne Children’s surgeons, clinicians and researchers have united to transform outcomes for children with heart disease and heart failure.

child having medical checkup

Key facts

  • Every week 8 Australian babies are born with a congenital heart defect

  • Children also acquire heart disease from infections and treatments for other diseases

  • Surgical and medical advances now allow >80% of these children live into adulthood

  • For the first time in history, there are more adults than children living with childhood-diagnosed heart disease  

  • Children require tailor-made treatments and care to prevent their heart disease progressing to heart failure
  • Every week 8 Australian babies are born with a congenital heart defect

  • Children also acquire heart disease from infections and treatments for other diseases

  • Surgical and medical advances now allow >80% of these children live into adulthood

  • For...
  • Every week 8 Australian babies are born with a congenital heart defect

  • Children also acquire heart disease from infections and treatments for other diseases

  • Surgical and medical advances now allow >80% of these children live into adulthood

  • For the first time in history, there are more adults than children living with childhood-diagnosed heart disease  

  • Children require tailor-made treatments and care to prevent their heart disease progressing to heart failure

Key activities

The Heart Failure Flagship has created a multi-disciplinary program to deliver innovative interventions to transform paediatric health failure in Australia and across the globe. The program consists of the following key activities:

An established translational research pipeline with specimen biobanking, clinical registries, genomic diagnostics and disease modelling

A Stem Cell Medicine program encompassing stem cell biology through to clinical trials, with strong links to the reNEW program

A world-class drug and cell therapy research program to treat the increasing prevalence of heart failure in children


National analysis of disease and economic burden to inform hospital and healthcare planning

Heart Failure Patient Advocacy group initiatives to advocate for patients on Campus and in research, as well as increasing awareness around heart failure in children.


Flagship members

Heart Disease

Our vision is to transform the treatment of childhood heart disease using stem cell technologies.

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Heart Regeneration

Our vision is to transform the treatment of childhood heart disease using stem cell technologies.

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Heart Research

Helping patients and their families manage heart disease. Our group studies many aspects related to cardiovascular health in children.

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Royal Children's Hospital Cardiology

The Cardiology Department at The Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) provides a diagnostic and treatment service for patients referred with actual, or suspected, heart disease. 

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Royal Children's Hospital Cardiac Surgery

The RCH Cardiac Unit provides comprehensive care for neonates, infants, children, and young adults. 

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Royal Children's Hospital Paediatric Intensive Care (PICU)

PICU provides intensive care services to critically ill infants, children and young people for Tasmania, Victoria and southern New South Wales.  RCH is the designated state-wide major trauma centre for paediatrics.

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Transcriptomic and Bioinformatics

Mining our genomic information, in order to uncover the underlying genetic causes of congenital diseases, such as congenital heart disease (CHD).

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Patient Advocacy Group (PAG)

Find out about our team and view our series of six informative videos sharing the different perspectives of Childhood Heart Disease and Heart Failure.

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Flagship steering committee

The leadership team consists of representatives from across the Murdoch Children's Research Institute themes of Stem Cell Biology, Clinical Sciences, as well as the Royal Children's Hospital departments of Cardiac Surgery, Cardiology and Paediatric Intensive Care. 

Committee member
Role
Flagship lead, Stem Cell Biology
Cardiology, Royal Children's Hospital
Cardiac Surgery, Royal Children's Hospital
Clinical Sciences
Dr Siva Namachivayam
Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Royal Children's Hospital
Program Manager, Stem Cell Biology


More information

  • The RCH Advanced Heart Failure Programme - This RCH Grand Rounds presents the program for severe heart failure: its history, regulatory structure, circulatory support options, surgical techniques, transplant outcomes, and the multidisciplined research underpinning this program.
  • HeartKids From the Heart Podcast - Listen to fantastic podcasts by our very own Netty Gaulton (Patient Advocacy Group) and Mirana Ramialison (Transcriptomic and Bioinformatics group).