Two-year-old Owen Stark became the first toddler successfully treated with an artificial lung, managing to avoid the need for a transplant more than a year later.
Owen arrived at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in the summer of 2010 near death from heart failure and dangerously high blood pressure in his lungs.
Owen was given medication and placed on a ventilator to treat his pulmonary hypertension, a rare condition where blood is prevented from entering the lungs because the arteries are too narrow. This causes the right side of the heart, which pumps blood through the lungs, to work harder than normal and become enlarged, which leads to heart failure, and physicians thought he might need a lung transplant.
"We hoped the ventilator would allow us to get him well enough that he wouldn’t need to be put on a heart-lung machine," said Dr. Avihu Gazit, Washington University pediatric critical care physician who was the first to treat Owen. "But 24 hours later, we knew that wouldn’t be the case, and we had to make the decision to go forward with the heart-lung machine called ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation). We knew that his chances of survival were getting smaller and smaller."
When his condition continued to worsen, physicians put Owen on the ECMO machine to give his heart and lungs time to recover and respond to treatments prior to a lung transplant, according to the release. After 16 days Owen’s heart had recovered but his lungs had not, and there were no lungs available for transplant. The hospital decided to put Owen on an artificial lung, even though it had never been used in a child so young, and got emergency approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and from Washington University’s Institutional Review Board.
Owen was on the artificial lung for 23 days when he accidentally kicked off one of the device’s connectors. Owen had a stroke and was taken to the operating room to reconnect the device, where doctors found that Owen’s lungs had healed enough to allow adequate blood flow on their own.
"Owen was able to come off of the artificial lung," Gazit said. "We had no idea that we’d be able to get him off of the device before a transplant. It showed us that everything we did was the right thing."
A year later Owen continues to take medication for pulmonary hypertension, but hasn’t required a lung transplant yet, and the medical team hopes that Owen’s case may set a precedent for treating other children with similar illnesses prior to a transplant.
"We would like to be a part of or lead a trial,"Gazit said. "It requires a multi-institutional effort and we really hope that all of the large lung transplant centers will join us in this effort."
Their story is published in the June 2011 issues of The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.
Here’s a roundup of recent clinical trial and scientific study news:
Patients with severe aortic stenosis who are at high risk or not suitable candidates for open heart valve replacement surgery may be able to benefit from a new aortic heart valve transplant that doesn’t require open-heart surgery. The Sapien XT valve, made by Edwards Lifesciences Corp. (NYSE:EW), was found safe and effective in a multi-center phase IIB cohort study offered through Rush University Medical Center.
The Sapien valve is inserted using a catheter inserted through an incision in the femoral artery in the leg, rather than through open-heart surgery.
The device is set to receive FDA review in July. Edwards officials have said they believe a green light from the FDA for Sapien could bring in $20 million to $25 million in U.S. sales.
Edwards has been riding a wave of positives for the device, which performed well in an eagerly awaited study early this year.
A researcher at the University of Gothenburg was the first to find that titanium is pretty body-friendly when it comes to dental implants, and new research suggests that a rough surface is better than a smooth one. Studying the surface of a dental implant at the nano level, Johanna Loberg of the university’s dept. of chemistry discovered that increased surface area on the implant allows the body’s own biomechanics to speed up healing around the implant.
SeptRx Inc. began clinical trials in a bid to win CE Mark approval in the European Union for its InterSept intrapocket PFO occluder, a platform for the percutaneous transcatheter closure "hole in the heart" defects.
Nearly 68,000 deaths may be prevented each year by through implementation of national guideline-recommended therapies, according to a report from researchers at UCLA.
Patients with normal left ventricular function who underwent elective heart bypass surgery using drug-eluting stents had favorable outcomes, according to researchers at UCLA.
People with primary insomnia may be able to get some rest by wearing a cap that cools the brain during sleep, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh school of medicine. Insomnia is associated with increased metabolic activity in the region of the brain’s frontal cortex, which is associated with restorative sleep.
Excessively thick blood can damage blood vessels and increase risk of heart attacks, but a physicist at Temple University says he can thin human blood using magnetic fields. Using research on the use of magnetic fields to decrease thickness in oil in engines and pipelines, professor and chair of the physics dept. Rongjia tao applied the same principles to human blood and found that he was able to reduce a person’s blood viscosity by 20 to 30 percent by subjecting it to a magnetic field about as strong as that used by an MRI for about one minute.
Inhibitory control can be boosted by a mild form of brain stimulation using a weak electrical current applied to the front of the scalp, according to researchers at the
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at the National Central University in Taiwan.
People who use a mist inhaler to deliver a commonly prescribed drug to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may be 52 percent more likely to die, according to researchers at
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
"What we think is going on is that the mist inhaler is delivering a higher concentration of tiotropium than it should be and that may be increasing the risk of death," said Dr. Sonal Singhan assistant professor of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins and the lead author of the study.