Revolutionary procedure used to treat a neonatal heart defect

November 04, 2010

Christopher Shelton was just 4 days old when he arrived at Children's to undergo a novel operation that would save his life. Christopher was born with a rare and surely fatal combination of heart conditions: a multiple muscular ventricular septal defect and transposition of the great arteries.

At Children's, members of the medical staff typically treat about seven patients a year with challenging multiple muscular ventricular septal defects like Christopher's. Members of the staff perform about a dozen arterial switches a year. Christopher's combination of the two is doubly rare.

The Children's cardiac care program assembled a unique three-specialist team to tackle the defects in one operation rather than a series of procedures performed by different cardiac subspecialists. Dr. Thomas Zellers, chief medical officer at Children's and an expert in interventional cardiac catheterization, worked through a small needle hole on the heart's surface to close the holes caused by the septal defects, while cardiac imaging specialist Dr. Claudio Ramaciotti provided the detailed roadmap for his work. Then, Dr. Joseph Forbess, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Children's, performed the arterial switch to correct the transposition of the great arteries.

Christopher's physicians believe this collaboration between subspecialists will become more frequent both at Children's and throughout the nation, to the benefit of heart patients. Christopher's mom, April, is simply happy to have her newborn at home.

"I don't know what we would have done if it wasn't for Children's," she said.