10 Best Children's Hospitals

6. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

For two thirds of her life, 12-year-old Leah Koller has battled glioma, an invasive brain tumor. Fortunately, Regina Jakacki, M.D., the hospital's director of pediatric neuro-oncology, has been working on a vaccine to stimulate a child's immune system to target proteins unique to tumor cells. Just as Leah's glioma had gotten out of control two years ago -- and her sixth round of chemo at the hospital failed -- the vaccine was open for testing in children. "After nine weeks, the tumor actually seemed worse, and we wondered if we did the right thing," says her mom, Raelene. "But then it started to shrink -- and now 80 percent of it is gone." In the last two years, about three dozen cancer patients have received the vaccine and it's helped more than half of them. Says Dr. Jakacki: "My team and I were hoping to prolong the lives of these kids, but now we're thinking we're onto a cure in some cases."

More Genius Ideas

  • Offers one of the nation's only bone-marrow and stem-cell transplant programs to treat children with rare neurological disorders.
  • Has a 100 percent success rate in performing liver transplants to cure kids with "maple syrup urine disease," a genetic metabolic condition.

Hospital Attributes

  • $30 million or more spent on research annually
  • Private NICU rooms with less noise and more space
  • Magnet Nursing Status, the highest level of care
  • 10 or more experimental cancer studies
  • 85% survival rate or higher for tricky heart surgeries
  • Average waits of an hour or less in the E.R.
  • Tracking of many preemies for developmental delays
  • 1-month-or-less wait for an autism evaluation

7. Texas Children's Hospital, Houston

When Texas Children's pediatric neurologist Angus Wilfong, M.D., heard about pinpoint laser technology to treat prostate cancer a couple of years ago, he thought, "Why couldn't we use it to perform brain surgery to treat seizures that don't respond to medication?" Less than a year later, he pioneered the world's first MRI-guided laser surgery to zap epilepsy-causing brain lesions, and he has successfully treated 20 children, most of whom are now seizure-free. With the regular type of surgery, "patients remain in the hospital for a week," he says. "Thanks to these less invasive and more accurate techniques, kids just stay overnight." About a dozen other hospitals are now using his technique.

More Genius Ideas

  • Has the world's only pediatric lymphoma research center.
  • Links cancer patients with professional musicians who help them create and record their own songs.

Hospital Attributes

  • Magnet Nursing Status, the highest level of care
  • 10 or more experimental cancer studies
  • 85% survival rate or higher for tricky heart surgeries
  • Average waits of an hour or less in the E.R.
  • Tracking of many preemies for developmental delays

8. University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, Ann Arbor

Eighteen months ago, the hospital's chief pediatric surgeon, Ronald Hirschl, M.D., summoned transplant and other surgeons for a history-making operation: "We needed them to remove the liver of a 13-year-old boy who had been in an accident, repair the tears in his liver and veins, and then put the organ back in." The procedure, called autotransplantation, had never been successfully done in a trauma case. "The surgeons said, 'Okay, we'll take a look,'and just a couple of hours later 50 staff members were working furiously to save the child," recalls Dr. Hirschl. "We were able to repair enough of the damage to stabilize him. Now, after more surgeries, he has been able to resume all of his regular activities."

More Genius Ideas

  • Conducted the first study to identify teens with eating disorders when they come to the emergency room for another problem.
  • Is developing gene therapy for kids with muscular dystrophy.

Hospital Attributes

  • Private NICU rooms with less noise and more space
  • 10 or more experimental cancer studies
  • 85% survival rate or higher for tricky heart surgeries
  • Average waits of an hour or less in the E.R.

9. Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

There are preemies -- and then there are micropreemies. Local hospitals send Nationwide Children's their tiniest newborns because its NICU boasts a tremendous 78 percent survival rate for babies born between 22 and 27 weeks' gestation. The key: "We research the effectiveness of every last detail, down to the tape we use," says Edward Shepherd, M.D., the hospital's chief of neonatology. The preemies not only survive, they thrive. "At the hospital's preemie reunion last fall, my 18-month-old son, Nicholas, was playing with the little girl who had been in the NICU bed next to him," says Melissa Metz. "Looking at Nicholas now, it's hard to believe that he was born four months too soon and weighed just a little more than a pound. He's hit every developmental milestone."

More Genius Ideas

  • In 2010, was the first children's hospital to share its patient-safety results on its website, paving the way for more transparency in the medical system.
  • Is working on a vaccine to prevent recurrent ear infections.

Hospital Attributes

  • $30 million or more spent on research annually
  • Magnet Nursing Status, the highest level of care
  • 10 or more experimental cancer studies
  • Average waits of an hour or less in the E.R.
  • Tracking of many preemies for developmental delays
  • 1-month-or-less wait for an autism evaluation

10. Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Last summer, Children's Memorial Hospital got a new name and new home, but it still has the same experienced staff. Lurie Children's offers one of the largest programs in the country to treat vascular rings, a congenital heart condition in which the aorta forms a complete ring around the trachea and esophagus, so it's difficult for a child to breathe, eat, or swallow. "Although this is a rare problem, we've seen more than 500 patients with it," says Carl Backer, M.D., head of cardiovascular-thoracic surgery. "We've been able to refine our medical imaging to pinpoint exactly where the ring occurs and surgically repair it with precision."

More Genius Ideas

  • Designed a CT scanner that looks like a yellow submarine to help kids feel more at ease.
  • Conducted the largest study to date on children and food allergies, leading to increased awareness.

Hospital Attributes

  • $30 million or more spent on research annually
  • Private NICU rooms with less noise and more space
  • Magnet Nursing Status, the highest level of care
  • 10 or more experimental cancer studies
  • 85% survival rate or higher for tricky heart surgeries
  • Average waits of an hour or less in the E.R.
  • 1-month-or-less wait for an autism evaluation

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