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New Procedure for Open Heart Surgery on Infants

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Dr. Kim MulvihillThey are the youngest and tiniest patients facing the risks of open heart surgery. Now, thanks to a new procedure, they have hope for full recovery.

Born two days ago, little Christin Hillman is battling a life-threatening heart problem. He has only one ventricle-- half a heart, and no chance of survival without medical intervention.

Christin is missing the left side of his heart, the main pumping chamber, and that's preventing the newborn from effectively pumping blood through his body.

The standard treatment for babies like Christin is a series of three open heart surgeries-- the first is performed within the first few days of life, followed by one at six months, and then at two years of age.

Now a new approach eliminates the initial open heart surgery. The new procedure is conducted in a catherization lab rather than an operating room.

The baby's chest is opened briefly to gain access to the heart and the pulmonary arteries. Through small openings, restrictive bands are fitted around the passageways to narrow them and restrict blood flow to the lungs. Next, doctors insert a stent, a narrow tube that allows blood to be pumped out of the right side of the heart into a child's body.

A big plus considering the procedure is usually performed on premature babies within the first two weeks of their lives. Compared to standard treatment, this new hybrid approach has several advantages.

That's a relief to one mother as she watches her baby recover from a successful hybrid procedure. The little baby now has a better chance at living a normal life.

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