Historically, children who have heart valve conditions have had chronic problems that require lifelong follow-up and treatment. Currently, few artificial replacement heart valves are available that are designed specifically for children, so doctors are limited in their options. Further complicating matters is the fact that when surgeons place a new valve in a child, it doesn’t expand as the child grows, so it needs to be replaced over time.
To address these problems, our researchers are exploring ways to reconstruct children’s existing valves. A child with a reconstructed valve can live a long time with an optimal quality of life.
Our current work includes:
- Using our innovative 3-dimensional imaging to determine whether an intervention should be catheter- or surgery-based. With our new catheter techniques, we can improve the function of heart valves that previously were untreatable. We have also developed surgical procedures to reconstruct many of these valves.
- Exploring possibilities with tissue-engineered valves that will grow with our patients. The concept would eventually involve taking the patient’s own stem cells and growing a new valve or valve conduit that could later be re-implanted into her heart.
Valve conditions tend to be lifelong problems, even with the most advanced care. We see these problems in infants, older children, teens and adults. Many of our adult patients have lived with deformed valves over many years and have undergone multiple procedures. We believe that our explorations and advances will help patients of all ages.