Infographic: Amazing Heart Facts

What’s a better time than Valentine’s Day to learn more about the heart?

This infographic will help you expand your heart smarts.

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Electrophysiology Advances Restore Patient’s Quality of Life

A teenaged patient’s longtime arrhythmia has been repaired and her quality of life dramatically improved thanks to emerging technology and the skill of a CHOC Children’s cardiologist.

Lauren Flotman, 15, had experienced irregular heartbeats for years before Dr. Francesca Byrne, a pediatric cardiology specialist, diagnosed her with supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, and Dr. Tony McCanta, a pediatric heart rhythm specialist, repaired the condition through radiofrequency ablation.

The episodes first surfaced when Lauren was about 8 years old and they began increasing in frequency as she aged. They’d occur without warning or pattern.

For Lauren and her family, the sudden attacks caused great concern. Not only was she drained and tired after an episode, but Lauren dreaded them happening, especially during a pep squad routine when her teammates were depending on her.

Lauren was elated to finally have a name for her condition.

“It was a huge relief for sure to have a diagnosis,” she says. “I always had to just describe the feeling because I didn’t have a name. Now I can say I have SVT.”

Lauren’s diagnosis was reached after a Holter monitor captured her heart racing at 220 beats per minute. Dr. Byrne referred Lauren to Dr. McCanta to discuss treatment options, which included anti-arrhythmic medications or an ablation procedure.  After reviewing their options carefully, the Flotmans decided to pursue ablation.

For Lauren’s ablation, Dr. McCanta used a new technology called an intracardiac echocardiogram, or ICE, to create a three-dimensional map of the inside of her heart without using fluoroscopy (X-Ray radiation), enabling a catheter to apply radiofrequency energy to the precise location in her heart causing her SVT.

ICE technology involves a tiny ultrasound probe imbedded into a catheter that is advanced through the vein directly into the heart, allowing for very clear, accurate image quality. These ultrasound images then integrate with a three-dimensional electroanatomical mapping system, which acts like a GPS (global positioning system) for the catheters within patients’ hearts, to provide an accurate real-time shell of the inside of the patient’s heart. This allows the doctor to safely move catheters inside the beating heart without using radiation.

electrophysiology
Dr. McCanta and the electrophysiology team at CHOC were among the first in the world to routinely utilize intracardiac echocardiography in pediatric and adolescent patients.

While radiofrequency ablation has become a safe and common treatment for SVT in children and adolescents since the mid-2000s, intracardiac echocardiography (ICE) has not traditionally been used in pediatrics due to the large-sized catheters. But when a smaller catheter was created, which was more suitable for the size of young patients, Dr. McCanta and the electrophysiology team from the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute were among the first in the world to routinely utilize the new technology in pediatric and adolescent patients.

“For a young, healthy patient like Lauren, increasing safety and minimizing the use of radiation are extremely important, while still being able to provide a cure for her arrhythmia with ablation” says Dr. McCanta.

After a few days of taking it easy following the procedure, Lauren felt back to her usual self – only without the constant fear her heart would suddenly begin racing.

electrophysiology
Lauren’s longtime arrhythmia has been repaired and her quality of life has dramatically improved, thanks to the electrophysiology team at CHOC.

“Our team loves utilizing advanced technologies like ICE and three-dimensional mapping to help children, adolescents, and young adults with heart rhythm problems,” says Dr. McCanta, “Seeing patients like Lauren get back to all of the things they love doing is why we do this!”

Since the procedure, Lauren has been vocal at church to educate her peers about being conscious and vocal about their health.


Get the facts about CHOC's advanced electrophysiology program



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Meet Dr. Wyman Lai

Just in time for American Heart Month, meet Dr. Wyman Lai, a nationally-recognized pediatric cardiologist with expertise in fetal cardiology and non-invasive imaging for heart disease in fetuses, and children at CHOC Children’s. Dr. Lai is the new medical director of echocardiography at CHOC and co-medical director of the CHOC Heart Institute.

Dr. Wyman Lai
Dr. Wyman Lai, medical director of echocardiography at CHOC and co-medical director of the CHOC Heart Institute.

“CHOC has a fabulous mix of state-of-the-art care, community presence, and academic achievement. I thoroughly enjoy working with my colleagues, who strive to provide the very best care available. The administrative staff at CHOC has also been extremely supportive. Together we are building a pediatric service that rivals any in the region, and we have our sights on even higher goals,” says Dr. Lai.

Dr. Lai’s passion for helping others inspired him to become a doctor. His original plan was to go into academic primary care pediatrics – a teaching and research position, and he majored in maternal and child health for his Master of Public Health degree. Early in his training, he became fascinated with what pediatric cardiologists were doing, and he switched to pediatric cardiology.

“The heart is an amazingly complex organ; it starts off as a simple tube, and it’s a wonder that it develops into a four-chambered pumping organ that delivers oxygen efficiently throughout our body,” says Dr. Lai. “In pediatric cardiology, we are able to make a profound difference in the lives of our patients. With our surgical colleagues, we have made incredible advances in life-saving therapies over the past five decades.”

Dr. Lai attended medical school at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He completed his residency at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, followed by a pediatric cardiology fellowship at UCLA Medical Center, and much later, a pediatric cardiology MRI fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Since joining CHOC, Dr. Lai has been treating patients with complex congenital heart disease. He is also treating patients with the full spectrum of heart conditions, from heart murmurs to chest pain and syncope.

Dr. Lai’s approach towards his patients and their families is to treat them like family members.

“As with all families, however, not everyone is the same,” he explains. “Some patients and parents want more medical information and some less. Some want to be very involved in the decision-making process and some not so much. My practice is to provide them with enough information and support, so they feel comfortable with the decisions they are making.”

Along with Drs. Nita Doshi and Pierangelo Renella, Dr. Lai is helping to build a great program in fetal cardiology at CHOC. He is also working with Dr. Renella to grow the congenital cardiac MRI program, including the use in non-invasive imaging for creating 3D heart models.

“We recently used a 3D cardiac MRI dataset to print several heart models that were used to assist in the planning of care for a child with complex congenital heart disease. Another area of innovation is our purchase of new patient monitoring software in the cardiovascular ICU that will help us to identify patients at risk for acute deterioration before it happens,” Dr. Lai says.

In his spare time, Dr. Lai loves spending time with his family. He also enjoys swimming, biking and running. He hopes to run in this year’s Boston and New York marathons, which he has participated in the past. He is also attending classes for a health care executive MBA at UC Irvine.





Learn more about CHOC fetal cardiology




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Heart Disease Medications for Children

 By Melody Sun, clinical pharmacist, & Dr. Nita Doshi, fetal cardiologist at CHOC Children’s

About eight in every 1,000 babies in the US are born with a heart defect. In some cases there are known risks such as pregestational or first trimester maternal diabetes, a previous child with congenital heart disease, mother or father with history of congenital heart disease, certain genetic syndromes, or certain prenatal medication exposures. Many cases, however, do not have a known reason. The heart is formed by week 12 of pregnancy, but sometimes, the usual developmental stages of the heart do not occur. Your prenatal care team may refer you to a fetal cardiologist for additional testing and monitoring. Sometimes, the defect does not significantly impact the quality of life, and the child can grow into adulthood without restrictions. It is when the defect causes severe consequences that the child may require surgery and/or long-term medications.

With advancing imaging technology, the majority of significant congenital heart defects may be detected during pregnancy. The state of California’s newborn screening program mandates newborn pulse oximetry screening for detection of congenital heart disease. If diagnosed with significant congenital heart disease, young patients may exhibit the following warning signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty with feeding and/or poor weight gain
  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Turning blue inside or around the mouth, or in certain areas of the face
  • Cool arms and legs
  • Tiring quickly with exertion or activity

In severe cases of significant congenital heart disease, medical, minimally-invasive (catheterization-based), or surgical therapy may be considered by your child’s cardiology team. Medications may be started before and after the surgery to improve heart and lung function.

Examples of medications that may be recommended to treat a patient with heart disease include:

Medication Intended Use
Aspirin Decreases the risk of clot formation
Furosemide (Lasix), chlorothiazide (Diuril) Reduces the heart’s workload by decreasing the amount of blood volume the heart has to handle
Spironolactone (Aldactone) Helps counteract the loss of potassium from diuretics and may help support heart function
Sildenafil Reduces elevated pressure in the lung arteries
Captopril/enalapril/lisinopril Reduces the resistance and heart’s afterload to improve the heart’s function or to help reduce certain types of valve leakage
Propranolol, Digoxin, Sotatol, Amiodarone Treats rhythm disturbances due to abnormal electrical signals through the heart cells

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By the Numbers: CHOC Children’s Heart Institute

The CHOC Children’s Heart Institute offers state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment for an entire spectrum of cardiac conditions, and we are the only Orange County facility to perform neonatal and pediatric open-heart surgery and cardiac catheterization.

In honor of American Heart Month, learn more about the institute.

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Why One Mom Is Thankful for CHOC This Year

By Karen Stapleton, CHOC parent and mom of Noah

Happy Thanksgiving! My name is Karen Stapleton, and my son Noah is a patient at CHOC Children’s. As I prepare to celebrate the holidays with my family, I’m grateful we can be together since we have so much to celebrate. I’m also grateful for Noah’s many doctors and nurses at CHOC because without them, my son wouldn’t be alive.

Noah’s birth story

When I was 29 weeks pregnant with Noah, we learned that he had Down syndrome. Another prenatal ultrasound showed an abnormality in his heart, and we were referred to Dr. Pierangelo Renella, a pediatric cardiologist at CHOC, who diagnosed Noah with tetralogy of fallot, a serious heart defect that causes poor oxygenated blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. I was scared, but having been a CHOC patient myself as a child, I knew my son would be in good hands.

Karen and Noah in the NICU, shortly after Noah was born
Karen and Noah in the NICU, shortly after Noah was born

On July 27 of last year our lives changed forever— Noah was born! I chose to deliver at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange so that my son could be as close to CHOC as possible. When he was born, there were so many doctors and nurses around. I saw Noah quickly enough to give him a kiss before he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at CHOC.

Shortly after birth, Noah’s care team also diagnosed him with Apert syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes certain bones to fuse early. For Noah, that was his skull, fingers and toes.

 

A series of surgeries begins at 3 days old

Noah’s first surgery happened just three days after he was born. Due to the complexity of Noah’s conditions, the surgery was a team effort from multiple CHOC specialties. Noah’s gastroenterologist Dr. Jeffrey Ho; his team of cardiologists Dr. Renella, Dr. Michael Recto, Dr. Anthony McCanta, and Dr. Gira Morchi; his pulmonologist Dr. Amy Harrison; his otolaryngologist Dr. Felizardo Camilon; and the entire NICU team came together to prepare him and get him through that surgery.

It was a success, and 31 days after he was born, Noah finally came home! Weekly trips back to CHOC’s clinics included visits to gastroenterology, pulmonary, cardiology and craniofacial specialists. It was another team effort to prepare Noah for a second open heart surgery that he would eventually need.

gates-and-noah
Noah and his cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Gates

But a few weeks later, Noah had respiratory complications, which lead to an emergency open heart surgery at just 2 ½ months old. Thanks to Noah’s cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Gates, and Noah’s fighting spirit, he was able to come home shortly after surgery.

Celebrating Christmas at CHOC

Just days before Christmas last year, Noah had to be admitted to CHOC for respiratory failure. It was scary to see my baby sedated for 19 days. Dr. Juliette Hunt, a critical care specialist, recommended that Noah undergo a tracheostomy, where a small opening is made in his windpipe and a tube is inserted to help him breathe. Making a decision like that is hard and scary for a mom, but I had complete trust in Noah’s team, and if they knew it would help Noah breathe easier, then I knew it was the right thing to do.

edited-christmas-stocking
Noah celebrated his first Christmas at CHOC

After that, Noah started to thrive. He gained weight and became strong enough for his next open heart surgery with Dr. Gates. After a mere six days in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit following this surgery, Noah got to come home again!

Even when Noah is doing well, sometimes it can be scary to care for him when he’s at home. During one of our hospital stays, I confided this fear in one of Noah’s favorite nurses, Karissa. She gave me specific tips on what to do during his tummy time and baths, and gave me the courage to care for my son. She encouraged me, and reminded me that CHOC wouldn’t advise me to do anything that wasn’t safe.

Noah and Karissa, a registered nurse at CHOC

Noah’s first birthday

All of this is a lot for a little baby to go through before his first birthday, but Noah has always surprised us and pulled through. Celebrating his first birthday meant more than celebrating his first year of life; it meant celebrating every fight Noah had won over the last year, and it meant appreciating a milestone that at times we thought we might never reach. We decided a super hero theme was perfect for his party because we think of Noah as our little super hero.

Noah celebrating his first birthday

After his birthday, Noah continued to flourish and grow! He started rolling over and actively playing, and he has not stopped smiling.

This progress allowed us to prepare for his next major surgery, a frontal orbital advancement, to reshape his skull and forehead that has fused too early due to Apert syndrome.

Before surgery could begin, the doctors needed to cut Noah’s hair to make a safe incision in his skull. We marked another one of Noah’s milestones at CHOC— his first haircut!

Noah received his very first haircut at CHOC from his neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen, prior to a skull surgery.
Noah’s very first haircut happened at CHOC. He received it from his neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen, prior to skull surgery.

With the expertise of his neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen and his plastic surgeon Dr. Raj Vyas, and a very short stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Noah came home again! After yet another successful surgery at CHOC, his brain can now continue to grow.

Noah has more hurdles and additional surgeries ahead of him, but even with how much he’s fought, he continues to smile. He’s not cranky and he doesn’t cry. He’s enjoying every single day he gets to be here – and that’s the life he has taught me to live too.

If Noah’s care team ever needs a reminder of why they do what you do, I tell them: My son would not be here today if it were not for each and every one of them here at CHOC. And for that, my family will be forever grateful.

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Meet Dr. Michael Recto

As an internationally-recognized expert in interventional pediatric cardiology Dr. Michael Recto’s goal is to provide world-class cardiac care. He treats children with serious congenital heart defects, and performs both diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization procedures.

Dr. Recto takes great pride in having worked throughout his career with some of the top cardiologists in the field. When he joined the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute in 2013, he witnessed the same level of talent and knew instantly he was in the right place, he says.

Today, Dr. Recto’s approach to delivering care is to treat his patients and their families the same way he would like his family to be treated. He has learned a lot from his patients and their families along the way, and is still surprised at the touching moments he experiences on a daily basis.

“I had a patient just the other day with an atrial septal defect and I explained to this child’s family that this particular hole between the two atria was going to be hard to close. The patient would possibly require open-heart surgery,” Dr. Recto says. “The patient’s father looked at me and said, ‘We have a lot of faith in you.’ I was indeed able to close the defect in the cath lab. When I came out of the procedure and told the entire family the good news, they stood up and applauded and the father gave me a big hug. I was not expecting that. A moment like that is one of the best things you can experience. It was truly gratifying and humbling.”

 

Dr. Michael Recto
Dr. Michael Recto

“Everyone on the CHOC team is an expert in their field. We have experts in echocardiography (fetal, transthoracic and transesophageal echo), cardiac MRI, electrophysiology and cardiac intensive care. I am proud to be part of such a talented team,” he says.

Dr. Recto enjoys spending time in CHOC’s state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization laboratorities, where he is able to diagnose problems and if needed, perform an intervention and help a patient right on the spot, he explains.

Dr. Recto is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric cardiology. He attended medical school at University of the Philippines College of Medicine, followed by a pediatric internship and residency at New York University Medical Center. He completed a pediatric cardiology fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and a pediatric interventional cardiology senior fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, under the tutelage of Dr. Charles E. Mullins, known as the Father of Modern Interventional Pediatric Cardiology.

In addition, he Dr. Recto is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and a fellow of the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions, among other professional organizations. He has co-authored numerous articles in publications such as Pediatrics, Pediatric Cardiology, and Journal of the American College of Cardiology, to name a few.

Long before Dr. Recto was treating serious heart conditions, however, he thought of becoming an engineer or architect. His mother asked if he had ever considered a career in medicine. Although unsure about this career path, he decided to give it a try. After his first semester as a pre-med student, Dr. Recto felt that he had never studied as much in his life, he says jokingly, and decided he better continue the hard work he had started. He was eventually accepted to the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, where only a small number of students are accepted every year. The young doctor was first exposed to pediatric patients during his rotating internship at the Philippine General Hospital, where patients with some of the most complex clinical problems are sent for care. That experience solidified his passion for pediatrics.

When Dr. Recto is not caring for patients at CHOC, he enjoys spending time with his wife, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at CHOC, and their three grown children.

Prior to coming to CHOC, Dr. Recto served as both chief of pediatric cardiology and director of cardiac catheterization at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans. Previously, he was chief of pediatric cardiology and director of inpatient transplant services at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville.

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Choosing Your Child’s Heart Program

It can be frightening to hear that your newborn or child has a congenital heart defect and needs surgery. Congenital heart defects are relatively common, affecting about one in every 100 newborns in the United States. Your child’s doctor will often refer you to a heart surgeon if your child needs surgery. But, how do you know if the hospital where the surgery will be performed offers the best heart program for your child?

Not all hospitals that perform pediatric heart surgery are created equal. Infants and children who have heart defects or require heart surgery need to be cared for by a team of highly trained specialists in a facility that is designed to meet their needs. It’s best to do research on the hospital’s heart program, even if the surgeon or hospital has been referred by your child’s doctor.

One of the first things to look for in a pediatric heart program is to determine if the hospital has a specialized program and team of care providers who care exclusively to cardiac patients. Your child needs more than just a general pediatric surgeon and nurses, and adult heart surgeons typically don’t operate on children.

heart program

“Surgeons will be the first to tell you that pediatric heart surgery is a team effort,” said Dr. Richard Gates, surgeon-in-chief and medical director of the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute. “When looking for a heart program, look for an intensive care unit devoted entirely to pediatric heart patients, and if there are pediatric heart-focused nurses, anesthesiologists and perfusionists.”

A reputable, high-performing children’s heart program will use only specially trained and board-certified pediatric cardiologists, thoracic surgeons and anesthesiologists, as well as cardiac nurses and perfusionists (people who operate the heart-lung machine during surgery). The program should also have more than one heart surgeon in case an emergency arises and your child’s surgeon is not available.

Also, does your child’s heart program have a dedicated pediatric cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) staffed with board-certified intensivists? A board-certified, pediatric cardiac intensivist has additional training in caring for critically ill children in the CVICU, and specialized CVICUs have been shown to improve patient outcomes and reduce complications.

When researching a heart program, be sure to also check if the hospital reports its heart surgical outcome rates. A reputable hospital will report their outcome rates to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for the public to see. STS rates will often be displayed on the hospital’s website, but you can also access these numbers directly from the STS website. Remember, you want your program’s rates to be above the national survival rates.

Other designations to look for are hospital safety awards, such as Top Hospital designation by the Leapfrog Group. Leapfrog’s Top Hospital award is widely acknowledged as one of the most prestigious distinctions any hospital can achieve in the United States. Top Hospitals have lower infection rates, better outcomes, decreased length of stay and fewer readmissions. In 2015, only 12 children’s hospitals in the nation and only two in California earned the respected award.

CHOC Children’s has compiled a list of 10 questions to ask when choosing a heart program for your child. Use this checklist as a guide when talking to your medical provider before your child has heart surgery.

The CHOC Children’s Heart Institute offers state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment for an entire spectrum of cardiac conditions. We have assembled an expert team of board-certified pediatric cardiologists, surgeons, intensivists, anesthesiologists, perfusionists, cardiovascular nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, dietitians, social workers, child life specialists and case managers — all with specialized training and expertise. Learn more about heart surgery at CHOC.

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Young Athlete Returns to the Pool after High-Stakes Heart Procedure

Even through intense water polo training and games, Ashley Klein had never experienced as much as a flutter inside her chest. And suddenly, emergency department staff were using words like heart failure, bypass, transplant and pacemaker.

A routine sports physical showed Ashley had an elevated heart rate, and CHOC Children’s cardiologist Dr. Anthony McCanta ultimately diagnosed her with ventricular tachycardia, a condition wherein her heart beat too fast and pumped blood in a dyssynchronous, or disorganized, way. This caused her heart muscle to weaken and enlarge, a second diagnosis called tachycardia-induced cardiomyopathy.

Though she felt perfectly fine, unbeknownst to Ashley, she’d had a ticking time bomb inside her chest.

Ashley Klein

“When you read about those poor kids who die suddenly at sports practice, this is that,” Ashley’s mother, Lisa, said. “It was really frightening.”

Ashley’s heart was only pumping out about 13 percent of the blood in its left ventricle. This measurement is called ejection fraction, and a normal heart should pump at least 55 percent. Ashley was at great risk for heart failure, and Dr. McCanta needed to work quickly.

After trying anti-arrhythmic medications, Dr. McCanta opted to correct the problem through radiofrequency ablation. By inserting catheters through Ashley’s leg and up into the heart, he would destroy cells in Ashley’s heart that were misfiring and causing the problem.

But in Ashley’s case, this procedure was especially complicated because of the location of the problem inside her heart.

Dr. McCanta and his team used catheters to create detailed 3-D maps of the inside of Ashley’s heart. The maps revealed the abnormality that was causing the rapid heartbeat was in the ventricle, but near the atrioventricular (AV) node, which sends electrical signals between the upper and lower portions of the heart.

Harming the AV node during the ablation would have resulted in Ashley needing a pacemaker. However, not correcting the ventricular tachycardia would almost certainly increase her risk of severe heart failure and lead to the possibility of needing a heart transplant, Dr. McCanta said.

“This was a risky procedure with very high stakes. Precision was even more important than it usually is,” he said.  “During the procedure, I discussed the risks of potential AV node injury versus worsening heart failure with Ashley’s family, and they decided it was more important to take care of it. So, we fixed the problem in a safe way.”

To ensure total accuracy, Dr. McCanta relied on the detailed 3-D heart mapping and a precise radiofrequency burn to ablate the problematic cells. The technology is used in CHOC’s state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization lab.

Within days of her procedure, Ashley’s heart function was almost completely restored and her ejection fraction had increased to about 48 percent.

“Her recovery has been remarkable,” Dr. McCanta said.

After taking the summer off from sports to recover, Ashley, 16, re-joined her water polo team this past fall.

“We are so grateful Ashley was at CHOC,” Lisa said. “Throughout the whole ordeal, we had complete faith in her doctor and knew that, regardless of the outcome, she was being given the best care by the best doctors and nurses. We would not have wanted to be anywhere else.”

Lisa added, “We want to stress the importance of sports physical, which we used to consider tedious. It literally saved our daughter’s life.”

Learn more about CHOC’s electrophysiology program.

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CVICU Intensivists Play Critical Role for Heart Patients

In honor of American Heart Month, we spoke to Dr. Michele Domico, medical director of CHOC’s cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU), on the importance of having a cardiac intensivist on a child’s heart surgery team.

Domico, Michele

Q: What role does the cardiac intensivist play in a patient’s overall care?

A: Heart patients will be seen by several doctors during their stay in CHOC’s CVICU. In addition to their cardiovascular surgeons making rounds in the unit, patients will also be regularly visited by their cardiologists who will also manage their care after they go home. But in addition to that care, pediatric heart patients also need a critical care specialist on hand at all times who can care for any unexpected complications that may arise. CHOC’s CVICU has an attending physician in the unit at all times, day or night, to care for our heart patients, and not all heart programs have that.  We are also the only place in Orange County that performs neonatal and pediatric open-heart surgery, and have outcomes above the national averages for overall survival rate and neonatal survival rate.

Q: Why is it important for parents to make sure there is a cardiac intensivist on their child’s heart surgery team?

A: General intensivists have training in treating infections, traumas, cardio-respiratory disorders, and other severe problems that may arise. A cardiac intensivist has additional training in caring for exclusively for the most critically ill cardiac patients with severe and rare heart disorders. Patients benefit from having cardiac intensivists on their care teams because they’re prepared to care for any complication that may occur.

Patients with certain heart conditions may require a series of surgeries throughout their childhood. Since there is a cardiac intensive care specialist on call in the CVICU at all times, we really get to know the families we care for. There’s not a single patient who comes to the CVICU for their second surgery that we don’t remember from their first operation. That continuity of care means peace of mind for parents, knowing their child’s heart team knows everything about them.

Q: Why is it important for children to see a pediatric subspecialist for their heart condition?

A: Adult cardiac doctors are trained on structurally normal hearts, where all the pieces of the heart puzzle are intact and everything is in the right place. But children with congenital or acquired heart conditions may have missing or misplaced pieces of their hearts and need specialized care. As pediatric heart specialists, we see patients every day who have unique and severe heart conditions, so we are especially able to care for them.

Learn more about the life-saving equipment and expertise available to patients in CHOC’s Heart Institute.

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