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Pediatric cardiologists and pediatric cardiovascular surgeons at Boston Children's Hospital have pioneered the interventional catheterization repair techniques now used widely for many congenital heart defects, including tricuspid atresia.
A significant amount of the groundbreaking cardiac research currently being conducted at Boston Children’s aims to refine and advance the open heart surgery and catheterization procedures that correct congenital heart defects in newborns and young children—including single ventricle defects.
At Boston Children's, our care is informed by our research. Our scientists investigate every aspect of the heart, and the conditions that affect it, so we can offer new and improved treatments to our patients.
The primary goal of our research is to combine our clinical and engineering expertise to advance the state of the art in surgical repair of heart valves.
Major themes of our research include:
Members of the Boston Children’s Cardiac Surgery Research Laboratory—a multidisciplinary team of basic and applied research investigators, all of whom 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—all of whom hold faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School—participate in clinical research activities, and many do laboratory research, as well.
Learn more about Boston Children’s cardiology research.
Clinical heart researchers at Boston Children’s are creating a new Congenital Heart Valve Program with a focus on valve repair rather than replacement. The new center has formed in response to the greater emphasis currently being placed on identifying and treating valve abnormalities in children and young adults with congenital heart disease.
Part of our approach to valve repair is finding new ways to get more accurate imaging information ahead of time with techniques such as 3-dimensional (3D) echo and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. Through use of such techniques, our surgeons can better understand the mechanism of valve dysfunction, and the appropriate repair to address that mechanism. Boston Children’s studies in the new program will be ongoing.
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 videogame 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.
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.”