Building a whole heart for children born with half: Q+A with a cardiac surgeon

December 27, 2012 by MassDevice

Could a new surgical approach help children like Lucas get the rest of their heart back?
Could a new surgical approach help children like Lucas get the rest of their heart back?

By Tom Ulrich

Our pediatric heart surgeons are used to pushing the envelope. Last month we reported on a new kind of heart valve for children with mitral valve defects that can expand as they grow. Now the same team reports 10 years of experience trying to rebuild a lost half of the heart for children born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a devastating, life-threatening defect.

The new strategy, called staged left ventricle recruitment (SLVR), seeks to harness a child's native capacity for growth and healing to encourage the undersized left ventricle to grow, giving the child a fully functional heart.

I sat down with Sitaram M. Emani, MD – a cardiac surgeon in the Heart Center at Boston Children's Hospital and lead author on the SLVR paper – to learn more. 

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Q: What is HLHS?

A: It's a condition where the left side of the heart doesn't develop properly while a child is in the womb, and is too small and weak at birth. That makes it hard for the left ventricle – which is responsible for pumping freshly oxygenated blood out to the rest of the body – to function properly.

Q: How is HLHS currently treated?

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