Health Alert: Helping babies with heart defects

NATIONAL (NBC) - Not long ago, babies born with certain fatal heart defects couldn't survive a week. Even life saving surgical procedures designed to repair tiny broken hearts often resulted in death.

But a new minimally invasive procedure can fix a lot of these problems.

An ultrasound exam before birth discovered baby Christina had a rare, fatal heart defect. Too much blood was pumping into her lungs and not enough to the rest of her body. Dr. Frank Scholl says, "This is a lethal problem, and many of these children, without intervention, will die."

With no time to waste, at three-days-old, Christina underwent a minimally invasive hybrid technique to reroute her blood flow. Dr. Scholl says, "In the hybrid procedure, we placed bands on the right and left arteries to the lungs to stop or limit blood flow to the lungs, and we put a stent in the ductus arteriosus to improve flow to the body."

This instead of a heart transplant or standard open heart surgery, that would have required that the baby be put on a heart-lung bypass during surgery. Dr. Scholl says, "The real beauty of this procedure is that in the neonate, in the very small babies, they're particularly fragile, and the bypass machine actually does some damage. It can cause brain damage and damage to the other organs."

It's a hybrid approach that's working. Williams says, "I just want to see her continue to grow and strive and become a very successful woman."

Posted by Chantelle Janelle