New procedure for Atrial Septal Defect

January 15, 2009 11:54:29 AM PST
Every year in the U.S., 17,000 children are born with a hole between chambers in their heart. It forces their hearts to work overtime, creating a life-threatening situation. Doctors are now patching the holes without even opening the chest. 15-year-old Anja Fortier has always had that funny feeling. "You know when you get nervous and you get butterflies in your stomach? It kind of felt like that," she said.

But the butterflies were actually in her heart. She was born with an Atrial Septal Defect , a hole between her heart's two upper chambers. That put her at risk for serious heart problems. Anja adds, "It gets tight. It feels tight in my chest sometimes."

Fixing a problem like Anja's used to mean open heart surgery. However, she's having a far less invasive procedure that closes the hole with a prosthetic patch.

"We have a metal framework that sits around both sides of the defect to keep the tissue in place," said Dr. Robert Vincent.

The procedure takes less than an hour. Guided by real-time imaging, doctors send a catheter through the femoral vein. A thin tube guides the patch into the heart. Once it's in place over the hole, it's visible on the ultrasound. Over time, tissue grows over it, sealing it in place permanently.

"It's really awesome to be able to come in on the day of the procedure, have it done and go home either that day or the next day without any surgery, without any incision and any stitches," adds Dr. Vincent.