5 of 2014’s Best and Biggest Cardiology Breakthroughs

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It’s been an important year for cardiology technology and heart condition treatments—at Children’s Omaha and beyond. For starters, we completed the second year of our heart transplant program, and this was our first year blogging about it. Sharing information and learning from others through this blog has been such a rewarding experience.

Also read: Why We Started A Heart Transplant Program In Omaha

So, for my last post of 2014, let’s take a look back at some of the important discoveries that might change the future for kids with heart conditions.

Read on for five of 2014’s biggest and best breakthroughs in pediatric cardiology.

1) 3D Model Helped Save a Heart Kiddo

A 14-month old boy was born with four congenital heart defects. With such a complex condition, doctors were unsure of the best course of action to repair them.

So doctors used a CT scan and a 3D printer to save his life, according to a February 2014 report from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. With the CT scan images, researchers created a larger-than-life model of the boy’s heart made from a flexible filament material. The doctors then used this model to develop a strategy to repair the heart in a single operation.

Why this matters for the future of cardiology:

With access to 3D printing growing, more doctors will be able to take advantage of this technology to come up with innovative procedures for heart kiddos with very complex conditions.

2) New Technology Diagnoses a Common Congenital Heart Defect

Doctors at a hospital in Illinois reported in February that a new imaging technique—4D flow MRI—can more easily diagnose bicuspid aortic valve, a common congenital heart defect, according to a December 2013 report in the journal Circulation.

Kids with this condition have two gateways controlling blood flow in their aortic valve, instead of the usual three, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine uses magnets and radio waves to create a picture of your organs and other internal structures, says the NIH. The 4D flow MRI takes that technology to the next level.

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Why this matters for the future of cardiology:

Researchers believe this new technology will help doctors more accurately predict complications caused by heart valve abnormalities.

3) Skin-Deep Defibrillator Battles Cardiac Arrest

A Florida boy became the fifth pediatric heart patient in the US to receive a device called a subcutaneous defibrillator in April, according to a report from Orlando Health, a health system in central Florida.OMAHA_5_Of_2014sBestAndBiggestCardiologyBreakthroughs_02

Normally, surgically implanted defibrillators need to touch the heart or blood vessels in order to work properly. But a subcutaneous defibrillator goes just beneath the skin near a person’s left armpit with wires that are inserted into one or more veins.

 

Why this matters for the future of cardiology:

As this technology becomes better known, it may become a more viable option for kids who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.

4) Paperclip-size Implant Monitors Patients’ Hearts

Thanks to a new sensor the size of a paper clip, doctors can now remotely monitor their patients’ heart function. The sensor goes in the patient’s pulmonary artery. It measures blood pressure and sends the information to his physician.

Why this matters for the future of cardiology:

More than 5 million people are currently living with heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The condition happens when a person’s heart cannot pump enough blood to the body.

As of October, this system was the only one of its kind that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved to monitor heart failure.

5) First Heart Transplanted After Circulatory Death

Surgeons at an Australian hospital performed the first heart transplant after the donor’s heart had stopped. This is called circulatory death.

Typically, donor hearts come from patients whose brains no longer function, but their hearts continue to beat. The patient is then taken off of life support and surgeons come in to procure the donor’s heart.

Also read: Behind The Scenes: What We’re Thinking When We Procure A Heart For Transplant

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Why this matters for the future of cardiology:

If this procedure becomes more widespread, it may significantly increase the number of deceased donors whose hearts qualify for transplant. That could mean shorter waiting times for transplant—and ultimately, more lives saved.

Barb Roessner

Hi, I'm Barb, and I'm a Physician Assistant and coordinator of the Heart Failure and Transplant Program at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. I work with patients and families at every step of the journey, from diagnosing their child's heart condition to my favorite part—calling them to say "We have a heart."

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