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Technology Predicts Outcome of Child Heart Surgery

ciate chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “The goal is to improve the quality of life for these children by understanding their current physiology and finding the best way to optimize the surgery for that particular child.”

While the program isn’t yet ready for use by surgeons outside the project, it could be available in about three to five years, Yoganathan said.

Although the normal heart has two ventricles or lower chambers of the heart used for pumping blood through the body, two out of every 1,000 babies in the United States are born with just one lower chamber. Considered one of the most complex congenital heart defects, a single-ventricle heart often leads to congestive heart failure if not repaired.

Patients with this defect often undergo multiple surgeries to reconfigure the pulmonary and systemic systems in operations called Fontan repairs, a reconfiguration that diverts the blood flow coming to the right side of the heart directly to the lungs so that the heart no longer has to pump blood to the lungs. Staged over several years, these surgeries are a common, but not always successful, option used for treating a single-ventricle defect.

After a less-than-optimal operation, children sometimes experience a reduced capacity to perform physical activities and may experience blood clotting and ventricle arrhythmias. The Georgia Tech/Emory surgery planning system could eliminate the need for additional surgeries by optimizing early surgeries.

“The research is meant to get at the root of the ‘failing’ Fontan, investigating why these pumping chambers fail in the hopes of devising new strategies to give these children a second chance in life. Using advanced imaging and bioengineering tools, the project hopes to describe how blood flows in this type of circulation and how this blood flow might be altered to extend the life of the pa
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