In the last half-century, the outlook for children with heart disease has changed dramatically. Morphologists have transformed our understanding of heart defects. Improved imaging methods, such as echocardiography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, have made diagnostic cardiac catheterisation almost redundant. However, interventional catheterisation has flourished as transcatheter procedures have replaced surgery for many lesions. The ability to pharmacologically manipulate the duct has revolutionised the management of the sick neonate with major heart disease. Better surgical techniques, such as deep hypothermia and circulatory arrest, allow repair of lesions in early infancy before irreversible complications develop. Advances in anaesthesia and intensive care have been integral. New sub-disciplines, such as fetal cardiology and electrophysiology, have emerged. The sum of these numerous developments is enormous. Lesions that were previously considered lethal are now routinely treated. Consequently, the great majority of children with major heart disease now reach adulthood in good health.