Research & Innovation
Pediatric cardiologists and pediatric cardiovascular surgeons at Children’s Hospital Boston have pioneered the interventional catheterization techniques now used widely for many congenital heart defects.
A significant amount of the groundbreaking cardiac research currently being conducted at Children’s aims to refine and advance the open heart surgery and catheterization procedures that correct congenital heart defects in newborns and young children—including truncus arteriosus.
Cardiac surgery research
Members of Children’s Cardiac Surgery Research Laboratory—a multidisciplinary team of basic and applied research investigators, all of whom hold faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School—are studying the mechanisms of heart disease and new treatments for children with congenital heart defects.
Some principal areas of active research are:
- surgical robotics and ultrasound-guided intracardiac surgery: The department is pioneering the use of 3-D ultrasound and laparoscopic techniques to operate on the beating heart.
- myocardial metabolism and myocardial hypertrophy and heart failure: Researchers are exploring new methods of myocardial preservation during heart surgery and the role of angiogenic growth factors in heart failure.
- tissue engineering to stimulate the growth of new tissue to repair congenital defects, including valve abnormalities, right ventricular defects and arrhythmias
Learn more about Children’s cardiac research initiatives.
Children’s is a world leader in opening new avenues of “translational research,” bringing laboratory advances to the bedside and doctor’s office as soon as possible. Senior medical staff members of the Department of Cardiology—all of whom hold faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School—participate in clinical research activities, and many do laboratory research, as well.
Learn more about Children’s current projects in cardiology research.
Innovations in treating congenital heart defects
The Nikaidoh procedure
The Nikaidoh procedure is an innovative aortic translocation operation for treating transposition of the great arteries when a ventricular septal defect (VSD) and pulmonary stenosis are present—a rare combination of defects. The procedure is performed only at Children’s and a handful of other specialty centers.
In this procedure, the aorta is switched, along with the aortic valve, and is placed in the pulmonary position.
To follow our patients long term, Children’s uses one of the only MRI scanners dedicated to pediatric cardiology. With our scanner, we can observe features like ventricular size and function, and we can look for the development of valve leakiness, obstruction of the great arteries or coronary artery obstruction.
Creating new ways to perform surgery
Problem: When surgeons perform heart surgery on a baby, they need to open the infant’s chest and stop her heart—an invasive, lengthy procedure that can cause life-threatening complications. Recognizing that there is much room for improvement, Pedro del Nido, MD, chief of Cardiac Surgery at Children’s, has developed a novel research program to invent new ways to improve the way that surgeons do cardiac operations.
Innovative solution: Del Nido decided to develop a way to perform surgery on a still-beating heart. But he needed two things that didn’t exist: superior imaging tools that could show the structures inside the heart while it’s beating, and tiny instruments to perform the intricate surgery.
So, he borrowed technology from the videogame industry and developed stereo-rendered 3-D ultrasound imaging that allows surgeons to see inside the beating heart as a hologram.
Del Nido also designed new instruments. One is a millimeter-sized tool that extends into the heart through needle-sized incisions. Using a joystick controller and real-time imaging, a surgeon can now navigate through the beating heart’s chambers in animals to remove blockages, repair faulty valves and close leaks.
The other new instrument is a cardioportdevice that allows instruments to be safely introduced into the cardiac chambers without the usual risks of blood loss or an air embolism.
Results: Del Nido’s 3-D tool appears not only to provide superior imaging, but also to yield faster surgery times. Researchers using it to operate on pigs with congenital heart disease performed the procedure 44 percent faster than before. Dr. Del Nido’s cardioport will soon be tested in clinical trials and will facilitate further development of similarly novel instruments for heart repair.
Del Nido’s newly-developed cardioport
will someday make possible faster, less invasive heart surgery.
|History of innovation|
|In 1938, Children’s cardiac surgeon Robert Gross, MD, performed the world’s first successful surgery to correct a child’s heart defect. Since that time, we have gained recognition around the globe for our leadership in pediatric cardiology and continue to make critical advances in the field. In 2011, U.S. News & World Report named Children’s cardiology and cardiac surgery programs the best of any pediatric hospital in the country.|
|Trace Children’s history of innovations in pediatric heart care.|