Heart week: A history of cardiovascular excellence

Children’s has been a leader in pediatric cardiovascular research and treatment for decades. Here’s a quick look at the innovation and success the hospital’s cardiovascular teams have brought to the field over the years.

stethoscope11938 Robert Gross, MD, performs the world’s first successful surgical procedure to correct a congenital cardiovascular defect.

operation11952 Robert Gross, MD, develops the first successful surgical closure of an atrial septal defect, a hole in the wall between the heart’s two upper chambers.

1983 William Norwood, MD, develops the first successful surgical intervention for hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a previously fatal defect in which an infant is born without a left ventricle. Since Norwood’s intervention, Children’s has been using the technique to better the lives of many children, like Sam Peerless, the baby with HLHS who was saved by Children’s doctors and featured in a recent episode of Boston Med.

1999 Thomas Jaksic, MD, introduces new laboratory techniques to analyze nutritional and energy requirements of critically ill neonates, even those on life support and ECMO. Advances in technology and technique by innovators like Jaksic has allowed patients who normally would have died in infancy the chance to grow up. In 2004, childhood survivors of these once fatal heart defects came together for a special ceremony at Children’s to celebrate life.

2001 Children’s interventional cardiologists, echocardiographers and fetal surgeons team up with Brigham and Women’s Hospital to perform the world’s first successful fetal intervention for HLHS, resulting in the birth of a baby with a healthy heart.

2002 The first-ever successful in utero repair of a heart defect in a fetus is performed by a skilled team of pediatric cardiologists from Children’s. The result is the birth of a healthy baby.

Pedro del Nido, MD pioneered new forms of robotic surgery in pediatrics
Pedro del Nido, MD pioneered new forms of robotic surgery in pediatrics

2004 Pedro del Nido, MD, becomes the first to use the da Vinci surgical robot to fix a defect in a child’s heart, using child-sized tools of his own design.

2007 Virna Sales, MD, and John Mayer, MD, create heart valves through tissue engineering, offering hope that children can receive replacement heart structures that grow with them, avoiding repeat operations.

2010 Innovation in cardiology continues to move forward at Children’s. With the help of a talented team of doctors, surgeons and researchers, Pedro del Nido is currently perfecting a surgical technique that would make bypass surgery– when a patient’s heart and lungs are temporally stopped to give surgeons better access to the organs– unnecessary in some cases. Known as beating heat surgery, del Nido hopes that once perfected and tested the technique will allow for faster and less invasive surgery; reducing risk, scarring and recovery time in young patients.