Saving a child's life with a smaller device


CLEVELAND, Ohio – It's a fear for expectant parents: one in every one hundred newborns has a heart problem. Until now, these babies were treated with the same devices used in adults.

Little Vivian Andorf had her first heart surgery when she was just two hours old.

"She's missing one chamber of her heart...veins going from her lungs to her heart they are progressively narrow," said Margaret Andorf, Vivian's mom.

So far, Vivian's had seven surgeries and six cauterizations.

"I've seen the caths and they're just these big long tubes and you just can't imagine how they get in," Andorf said.

"Most of the equipment that we use was designed and developed and produced for adults," explained Dr. Alex Golden, pediatric cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital.

Imagine a wire the size of the cord on your headphones, snaking through a tiny baby. Using adult-sized catheters, doctors can damage access vessels in the groin and cause a blockage. Doctor Alex Golden is the first Pediatric Cardiologist in the US to use a new approved cath for kids.  

"Having a cath that is 20 percent smaller than the smallest one we were using previously, I think, that's a great benefit," Golden explained.

"It feels like we have so much hope," Andorf said. Hope that a newborn given just a five percent chance of survival will beat the odds.

Vivian has one more surgery planned for this year. The new catheter is the first in the U.S. to be approved specifically for children.

Additional Information:

Cardiac catheterization of infants and children is a highly specialized procedure, which is performed in selected circumstances for additional diagnostic information. In addition, an increasing number of cardiac catheterization procedures are therapeutic and permanently correct or improve the underlying congenital heart condition, avoiding the need for open-chest surgery. Electrophysiologic catheterization procedures allow detailed investigation of heart rhythm abnormalities, and ablation procedures cure certain abnormal heart rhythms. (Source: http://pediatrics.med.unc.edu/specialties/cardiology)