Atrial septal defect (ASD) pediatric research and clinical trials

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Contact the Congenital Heart Valve Program

The Problem: ASDs, like other congenital heart defects, can be fixed only through invasive—and risky—open-heart surgery, a process that one doctor likened to a “sledgehammer” to the system. Opening the heart invites the risk of serious infection and brain damage, and can disrupt the rhythm of the heart, which occasionally requires the patient to need a pacemaker. Furthermore, it may take a child several months to heal from the surgery.

Innovative solution: Doctors and researchers at Boston Children’s teamed up to fix some patients’ hearts while they’re still beating—without the need for bypass surgery. Pedro del Nido, MD, chief of Cardiac Surgery at Boston Children’s, assembled a team, enlisting engineers at MIT, Boston University, Harvard University, Philips Medical Systems and Microfabrica to work with his surgical group.

First, they needed a way to see the beating hearts. The answer was culled from an unlikely source: video games. By donning gamers' flickering glasses, doctors could see, through 3D imaging, ultrasound images of the beating heart as a hologram.

Next, they needed a way to fix the hearts. Most babies were too small to sustain catheters, the usual way for doctors to close holes without surgery. To patch up holes in these babies, del Nido and a German collaborator spent two years coming up with a brand new patching system. Though this procedure is in clinical trials and promises to further the potential of eliminating the need for dangerous open-heart surgery.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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