CHOP logoCongenital heart disease is a common defect in the structure of the heart and vessels of a newborn. However, a surgical procedure has been introduced by the University of Michigan that provides infants with extremely underdeveloped hearts a better chance to survive during their first year of life, than the standard surgery. This may aid in increasing the rate of survival in infants born with this illness.

In order to affirm the study heart surgeons examined the results of 549 newborns, who received a complex series of surgeries for hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). They studied the outcomes of infants born with HLHS because it seemingly affects 1 in 5,000 live births. Such infants are ascertained to be born with a defect in the left ventricle, one of the heart’s two pumping chambers. It is claimed to be so small that they are unable to function. Without treatment, HLHS is fatal in the first few days of life itself.

“This landmark study is the largest clinical trial ever performed in congenital heart surgery, and the first randomized trial comparing two surgical procedures for congenital heart defects,” alleged J. William Gaynor, MD, senior author and a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and co-principal investigator of the study.

Surgeons have been developing surgical procedures for HLHS since the1980s and have increasingly helped more children to survive. There are three planned surgeries to be undertaken beginning from the newborn period to 18 to 36 months of age. The Single Ventricle Reconstruction (SVR) compared two techniques used in the most critical stage of surgery, called the Norwood procedure.

During the Norwood procedure surgeons implant a shunt, as it helps to divert blood from the malformed heart to the pulmonary artery. It further transfers the blood to the lungs. During the traditional procedure a modified Blalock-Taussig (MBT) shunt is employed which sends the blood from an artery to the aorta and then to the pulmonary artery.

The latest technique also known as the Sano procedure or the right ventricle-pulmonary artery (RVPA) shunt allows the right ventricle to be directly linked to the pulmonary artery. It should be noted that in case none of the techniques display positive results the only alternative is a heart transplant.

The study was published in the May 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.