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Washington University surgeons successfully use artificial lung in toddler
Date:6/16/2011

Two-year-old Owen Stark came to St. Louis Children's Hospital in the summer of 2010 near death from heart failure and dangerously high blood pressure in his lungs.

Washington University physicians and surgeons at St. Louis Children's Hospital knew they had to act fast to save his life. They collaborated to make several strategic and innovative decisions that led to the first successful use of an artificial lung in a toddler.

Their efforts are reported in the June 2011 issue of The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

The artificial lung, made by Novalung of Germany, "breathes" outside the patient's body to add oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the blood. It is approved only for adults and has been used to treat severe pulmonary infections or as a bridge to lung transplantation. The lung works without a pump, using the body's natural heartbeat to circulate blood.

Owen was transported to St. Louis Children's Hospital in full heart failure from abnormally high blood pressure in the lung's arteries. In this rare condition, called pulmonary hypertension, blood is prevented from entering the lungs because the arteries are too narrow. This causes the right side of the heart, which pumps blood through the lungs, to work harder than normal and become enlarged, which leads to heart failure.

Avihu Z. Gazit, MD, a Washington University pediatric critical care physician, was the first to treat Owen at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Initial tests showed that the right ventricle of Owen's heart was extremely large, compressing the left side of his heart and creating severe high blood pressure in the lungs, an often fatal condition with no known cause.

Typically, pulmonary hypertension is first treated with medication, Gazit says. However, Owen's condition was so severe that in addition to medication, he was placed on a ventilator in an attempt to force oxygen into his lungs. Physicians thought Owen ma
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Contact: Beth Miller
millerbe@wustl.edu
314-286-0119
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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