Stories about: Dr. Sitaram Emani

Using newborns’ own umbilical cords as shunts for heart surgery

umbilical-vein-pediatric-heart-surgery-single-ventricle

Cardiac surgery is reducing the use of plastic — starting with an operation for newborns who have life-threatening heart disease generally called single ventricle.

Single ventricle is so dangerous because it means only one of the heart’s two ventricles can adequately pump blood. Typically, affected infants undergo open-heart surgery to receive a Blalock shunt, which is a skinny tube made of PTFE — a synthetic polymer — that re-routes their blood flow to the lungs so enough oxygenated blood can get to their bodies. But when blood is exposed to foreign material, such as a plastic shunt, clots can form very easily.

This fall,a clinical trial at Boston Children’s Hospital will use patients’ own umbilical veins to create the shunt instead of plastic tubing.

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