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Progress Made Against Once-Fatal Heart Defect
Date:5/26/2010

to sustain life. That Norwood procedure, as it is called, is followed by a second operation at 4 to 6 months and a third at 18 to 36 months. If all else fails, a heart transplant can be done.

The new study tested the older shunt, which connects the aorta, the main heart artery, to the lungs pulmonary artery, with a newer model that goes from the heart's right ventricle to the pulmonary artery.

The newer shunt provides better results in the first 12 months -- 74 percent survival without a heart transplant, compared to 64 percent with the older model. But there are more complications with the newer model, and the results are about the same with both shunts after 32 months of use, according to preliminary data.

So, the story continues. "We're continuing to follow these children until they are at least 6 and probably longer," Pearson said. "We'll be learning a lot more information over time."

Even without functioning left ventricles, "many of these individuals live well into adulthood, including middle age," Pearson said. "Some can live what we think of as normal lives, participating in sports. Others may have more problems."

"Many have near-normal exercise tolerance and do most of the things children do," Ohye said.

But they do remain at risk of neurological problems, "because of the things they go through and inborn issues," he said. For that reason, the neurological development of the children in the study is being monitored, Pearson said, and a report on their mental progress will be issued in time.

Whatever the results, "we have ushered in a new era," Ohye said. "This is the first randomized trial in congenital heart surgery."

More information

To learn about congenital heart defects, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.



SOURCES: Gail
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