New Tool may Save Babies with Heart Defect

New Tool may Save Babies with Heart Defect

Reported November 25, 2009

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Researchers have developed a new tool that may help surgeons plan for a life-saving operation performed on babies born with severe congenital heart defects.


The tool was developed to aid doctors in preparing for the “Fontan” surgery. Babies who get the surgery have a developmental disease where one of the chambers, or ventricles, of the heart fails to grow properly. This leaves their hearts unable to properly circulate blood through their lungs and starves their bodies of oxygen. The lack of oxygen turns their skin blue, a condition sometimes referred to as “blue baby syndrome” for that reason. The Fontan surgery redirects blood flow to be capable of oxygenating the body, by connecting blood flowing veins to the side of the heart with the pulmonary arteries.



The tool first collects images to construct a customized model of the baby’s heart. After doctors input their surgical design, the computer explores different options. The software is able to stimulate blood flow after the stimulated heart construction, allowing surgeons to evaluate the plan’s outcome, before starting real surgery on a baby.

“Our ultimate goal is to optimize surgeries that are tailored for individual patients so that we don’t have to rely on a ‘one-size fits all’ solution,” Alison Marsden, co-developer of the new Y-graft design, was quoted as saying.

Exercise intolerance, blood clot formation and eventual heart failure requiring transplantation are all risks for babies who receive the Fontan surgery. Experts hope their new technique can mitigate these risks.

SOURCE: Presented at Fluid Dynamics Conference in Minneapolis, November 22-24, 2009