Fixing Preemie’s Failing Heart…Without Surgery

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 5:42 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Forty thousand babies a year are born with congenital heart disease – about one in four of those infants has a life threating condition that affects how the heart is shaped, or how it works, or both. Now, for the first time, doctors have been able to perform a life-saving heart procedure on one of the smallest infants in the nation.

“PDA – or Patent Ductus Arteriosus – it’s a vessel that all of us, yourself included, had when you’re inside of your mother and once you came out, it actually closed on its own,” explains congenital interventional cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, R. Allen Ligon, Jr., MD.

The PDA connects the big arteries that come off of the heart and goes into the lungs and body. But for some babies, the PDA doesn’t close.

Dr. Ligon says, “It’s incredibly common for babies who are born too early, or premature babies, for that vessel to stay open.”

If this happens, it can steal blood flow from other organs and cause an enlarged heart. Without surgery, these babies lives are at risk. That’s why it was necessary for Dr. Ligon to perform a heart vessel closure on a preemie born at 22 weeks, weighing just one point one pounds – the same weight as one glass of water.

“You can imagine a one-pound infant’s fist and how small it is – that’s how small her heart is,” Dr. Ligon emphasizes.

Snaking a catheter in the baby’s leg, the doctor delivered a PDA closure device up through the heart inside the PDA. The PDA creates a controlled clot that closes the vessel. Six days after the procedure, the tiny baby girl was off blood pressure meds, off the ventilator, gaining weight, and doing well.

The PDA closure device will never have to be removed. As the little girl grows, the tissue will grow over the PDA closure device and will become part of her body.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Matt Goldschmidt, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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