Children's National Health System

Spring 2014

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12 CARDIOLOGY Heart Tansplant An Invaluable Assist Until Approximately 100 American children younger than age 1 currently need a heart transplant, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. For infants with heart failure, the road to transplant can be rocky and, in many cases, left unrealized. BY RACHEL STEWART CHILDREN'S NATIONAL HEALTH System offers the Berlin Heart EXCOR ® Pediatric Ventricular Assist Device, an air-driven pump that uses pulsations to keep blood pumping through the le or right heart ventricles, to stabilize children awaiting heart transplant. Occasionally, two pumps are placed to support both ventricles. While this device can improve outcomes, it is not without risks, so close monitoring by specialists is key. "We now have a way to support patients while they wait for a donor heart to become available," says Janet Scheel, MD, Medical Director of Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant at Children's National. "This is particularly exciting since it is always better for these patients to keep their own heart, if possible. Approximately 69 patients around the world have had successful removal of their Berlin Hearts—and one of those cases was at Children's National." ONE CHILD'S JOURNEY Eliana Ortiz was 3 months old when she presented symptoms of heart failure, including rapid breathing and limp limbs. A er undergoing 10 hours of tests at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Eliana was transferred to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Children's National, where she was diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy. Physicians in the Cardiac ICU recommended Eliana for a Berlin Heart. "Eliana was a trailblazer because she had a rare resistance to the traditional anticoagulants used with the Berlin Heart," says Venkat Shankar, MD, MBA, Interim Division Chief of Critical Care Medicine at Children's National. "We consulted not only the literature and the developers of these protocols but also other facilities experienced in this technology before deviating from standard drugs to alternative agents and steroids." Specialized teams worked together during her seven- month stay, checking Eliana multiple times a day to ensure clots were not forming. Children's National therapists helped her meet important developmental milestones and build her strength. A er utilizing the Berlin Heart device for 161 days—much longer than the national average of 71 days—Eliana was able to undergo a heart transplant and is now thriving. "Eliana is happy, active, and eating well, which was a challenge when she first became sick," says Whitney Ortiz, Eliana's mother. "Her father, Orlando, and I want to recognize the more than 200 people who cared for Eliana during her time at Children's National. They are so committed and make a positive difference in so many lives, and for that, we will forever hold them in our hearts." For more information about the Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant program at Children's National, visit

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