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A significant amount of the groundbreaking cardiac research being conducted at Boston Children’s Hospital aims to refine and advance the open heart surgery and catheterization procedures that correct congenital heart defects in newborns and young children—including double outlet right ventricle.
Members of the Boston Children’s Cardiac Surgery Research Laboratory—a multidisciplinary team of basic and applied research investigators who hold faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School—are studying the mechanisms of heart disease and new treatments for children with congenital heart defects.
Some principal areas of active research are:
Learn more about Boston Children’s cardiac research.
Boston Children’s is a world leader in opening new avenues of “translational research,” bringing laboratory advances to the bedside and doctor’s office as soon as possible. Senior medical staff members of the Department of Cardiology participate in clinical research activities, and many do laboratory research, as well.
Learn more about Boston Children’s cardiology research.
Problem: When surgeons perform heart surgery on a baby, they need to open the infant’s chest and stop her heart—an invasive, lengthy procedure that can cause life-threatening complications. Pedro del Nido, MD, chief of Cardiac Surgery at Boston Children’s, had to perform surgery on his tiny patients using this method, or come up with a way to improve it.
Innovative solution: Del Nido decided to develop a way to perform surgery on a still-beating heart. But he needed two things that didn’t exist: superior imaging tools that could show the structures inside the heart while it’s beating, and tiny instruments to perform the intricate surgery.
So, he borrowed technology from the video game industry and developed stereo-rendered 3-D ultrasound imaging that allows surgeons to see inside the beating heart as a hologram.
Del Nido also designed new instruments. 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 now navigate through the beating heart’s chambers to remove blockages, repair faulty valves and close leaks.
The other new instrument is 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.
Results: Del Nido’s 3-D tool appears not only to provide superior imaging, but also to yield faster surgery times. Researchers using it to operate on pigs with congenital heart disease performed the procedure 44 percent faster than before. Dr. Del Nido’s cardioport will soon be tested in clinical trials and will facilitate further development of similarly novel instruments for heart repair. Del Nido’s newly-developed cardioport will someday make possible faster, less invasive heart surgery.
In 1938, Boston Children’s cardiac surgeon Robert Gross, MD, performed the world’s first successful surgery to correct a child’s heart defect. Since that time, we have gained recognition around the globe for our leadership in pediatric cardiology and continue to make critical advances in the field. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report named Boston Children’s cardiology and cardiac surgery programs the best of any pediatric hospital in the country.
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.”