Best Life: Fixing heart defect in babies with new surgery technique

Best Life: New surgery technique for COA heart defect in babies

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Babies born with heart defects before the 1980’s often did not make it to adulthood, and those who did faced a difficult surgery, and sometimes a lifetime of restrictions and uncertainty. But new procedures at the hands of the country’s top pediatric surgeons are making a huge difference.

Little Charlie Lowery and dad, Patrick are perfectly healthy now, but both started their lives with the same life-threatening condition. Thirty-one years ago, Patrick went downhill the day after he was born.

“I started bleeding through my eyes. My kidneys were failing. Everything was shutting down,” said Patrick.

Patrick was born with a heart defect called coarctation of the aorta or COA -- a narrowing of the vessel leading away from the heart.

Robert Pass, MD, Division Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City said, “Because of this obstruction the heart has great difficulty getting blood where it needs to go.”

Doctors repaired Patrick’s heart using an artery from his arm. He went on to play sports and live an active lifestyle. Patrick and his wife knew their children would have a ten percent chance of inheriting the condition. Big sister Adriana was born with a healthy heart, but on Charlie’s ultrasound, technicians saw the COA defect.

Patrick’s wife, Pam Lowery, said, “The only thing that made it a little easier, I tell people this and they think I’m crazy. I look at Pat, and he had it. And look at him now.”

Dr. Pass says instead of grafting an artery, Charlie’s surgeons used a new approach called end-to-end anastomosis.

“They literally cut out or resect the area that is narrow, and they take the two normal ends and literally, sew them together,” said Dr. Pass.

“It’s all treatable. This can all be fixed,” said Patrick.

“I forget. I truly, truly forget that this child had surgery,” Pam shared.

Doctors say Charlie’s heart will grow and stretch as he does, meaning a normal life expectancy with very few restrictions. Doctors say a generation ago, only about 50 percent of the patients born with heart defects survived. With new techniques, more than 95 percent of the children survive.

Copyright 2019 WMC. All rights reserved. Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Jamison Kozcan, Editor.