We are at the forefront of a whole new field in cardiac surgery that will be less invasive for children and will promote a quicker recovery. Currently, when surgeons operate on a child’s heart, they have to use open-heart surgery. This means using a bypass machine, stopping the heart, opening the chest and performing the surgical repair—an invasive, lengthy procedure that can cause life-threatening complications.
Our scientists, led by Pedro J. del Nido, MD, Boston Children's Hospital's chairman of Cardiac Surgery, are exploring ways to perform heart surgery while the heart is actually still beating. But he needed two things that didn't exist:
superior imaging tools that could show the structures inside the heart while it's beating - They borrowed technology from the videogame industry and developed stereo-rendered 3-D ultrasound imaging that allows surgeons to see inside the beating heart as a hologram. The high-definition imaging allows us to see the heart in three dimensions as we manipulate structures. With this new technique, we will be able to avoid bypass and also continually assess the heart repair as we’re performing it.
tiny instruments to perform the intricate surgery - Our research team is also developing new surgical tools that will allow us to operate on the smallest beating hearts. One is a millimeter-sized tool that extends into the heart through needle-sized incisions. Using a joystick controller and real-time imaging, a surgeon can navigate through the beating heart's chambers to remove blockages, repair faulty valves and close leaks. They have also developed a cardioport device that allows instruments to be safely introduced into the cardiac chambers without the usual risks of blood loss or an air embolism.
Our 3-D tool appears to not only provide superior imaging, but also yield faster surgery times.
Video: Operating on beating hearts
Pedro del Nido, MD, Boston Children's chief of Cardiac Surgery, discusses his goal of doing these delicate operations using sophisticated new tools and imaging techniques. Watch video