Children are not just smaller adults, they have different anatomies, physiologies, and surgical requirements. Surgeons must undergo a separate training to perform surgeries in children and hence the availability of qualified pediatric cardiac surgeons is limited. A study reveals that only 100 dedicated pediatric surgeons are licensed in India each year. This is where robot-assisted surgeries come in to save the day. Semi-automated surgeries can prevent human errors and reduce treatment costs.
Also, less invasive procedures are being developed across the globe to prevent the need for surgery. 3D organ printing creates an identical model of the heart, helping surgeons to understand the situation better before doing the actual surgery. With advancements like these, the coming days look like a good place for pediatric cardiology. Read on to find out what the future holds.
Less invasive pediatric cardiac surgeries
In open-heart surgeries, the surgeon has to cut through the breastbone to reach the heart. There is a higher risk of blood loss, infection, and trauma. Less invasive cardiac surgery is a set of techniques through which surgeons perform operations through very small incisions, roughly the size of a paperclip on the right side of the chest between the ribs. This approach also shortens recovery time and is less painful. Scarring is also minimal.
Miniaturization of Percutaneous Valve
The current stent treatments used to normalize blood flow is bulky, this has made it an unfavorable option for children younger than 5 years of age. A minimally invasive procedure called percutaneous pulmonary valve implantation is done using a catheter inserted into a femoral vein, guided by an X-ray. Once the stent is placed in the correct position, it will start to function at once.
Benefits & Limitations
Earlier at least four surgeries had to be performed, but now the number of times children and their families will have to undergo the risk and stress of open-heart surgery have reduced. Advancements have brought about smaller catheters that show promising results for younger and smaller patients too. This procedure is not without limitations, only patients who require a bioprosthetic valve between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery are eligible for this treatment at present.
3D Organ Printing in Pediatric Cardiac Surgeries
Another amazing innovation that will improve recovery for patients with congenital heart disease is the use of 3D organ printing technology. Medical experts comment that 3D printers have shown to be immensely beneficial to medicine, and cardiology is no exception. Models of the heart using images from a patient’s MRI/CT scans can be constructed. This allows the surgeon to thoroughly view and plan out the surgery and intervention procedures with fewer errors.
The 3D models duplicate almost every view of the heart in detail, including crucial elements that can be overlooked in 2D echocardiograms, CT scans, and MRIs. Viewing a life-size model of the heart before surgery allows the surgeon to perform the surgery with minimal risks. This method is used only for complex surgeries and comments reveal promising results. Besides minimizing risks, the technique results in early recovery and financial benefits too.
Semi-Automated Pediatric Cardiac Surgeries
In robot-assisted pediatric heart surgery, the surgeon uses robotic arms, instead of her hands, to perform the exact procedures in traditional open-heart surgery. This computer system eliminates the occasional hand tremor and makes use of motion scaling and indexing. The robotic arm consists of a dual-camera endoscope that yields a clearer view of the interiors.
The surgeon can peer through an eyepiece to get a high-definition, full-color, magnified, 3D image of the surgical area through the endoscope. The camera and instruments maneuver the surgical instrument just like master controllers on a gaming console. This process significantly reduces the high risks of open-heart surgery. According to research comments, this procedure is soon expected to be used for newborns and infants too.
What parents should know?
Having children with a heart defect will cause psychological and financial commotions in the families. So, families have to keep themselves educated enough to handle the situations. Websites of Haymarket Inc, Aspirus Inc, and Geisinger quality options Inc are recommended for self-education. Several heart conditions can affect children. Some are structural (congenital heart defect) or functional issues they are born with and others are caused by the electrical system that controls the heartbeat. Congenital heart defects are the most common heart defect. It is present at birth.
How do you know if your child has a heart problem?
There are numerous types of congenital heart defects. They can be simple, complex, and even critical. Simple defects, like atrial septal defect and ventricular septal defects (a hole in the walls between the heart’s chambers), don’t usually have noticeable symptoms. But, some might show symptoms that include bluish nails or lips, troubled breathing, tiredness, and excessive sleeping.
Complex or critical defects like hypoplastic left heart syndrome (the left side of the heart isn’t formed property and it causes issues in blood flow) may have life-threatening symptoms. In this case, contact your doctor immediately. When babies are born with a critical congenital heart defect, they usually have low levels of oxygen soon after birth and require surgery within their first year.
How to find a good pediatric surgeon?
If you have a concern about your child’s heart health, please reach out to your pediatrician to determine if a pediatric cardiologist’s diagnosis is needed. Go to reputed hospitals to get high-quality treatment and highly skilled surgeons. Organizations like Mednax Inc, If you are in South India, as Sri Ramakrishna Hospitals, Coimbatore is a safe bet. Treatments and surgeries have come a long way thanks to medical advancements and the recovery rate for pediatric cardiac concerns is high and more and more children return to live a normal life.
Taking care of the child
After the treatment completion, your child may be advised to switch to a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and healthy diets. Please, listen to your cardiac pediatrician and regularly follow-up with them to ensure that you stay on the same page. However, remember that a few babies and children with congenital heart defects do not grow and develop as fast as other children.
They may have a reduced appetite and this may cause them to be smaller and thinner than other children. They may also start certain activities like crawling, sitting up, and walking later than others. So, special care is required. You have to be ready to make some room in your schedule for tutoring, special education practices, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and plenty of patience.