The Repercussions of Infant Heart Surgery

When Mac Grieb was just a one-year-old he already had two open heart surgeries and doctors said that he would need another in his teenage years, reports The Inquirer. Last year, at 16 years old, complications had resurfaced and a heart procedure was mandatory. Instead of doing open heart surgery again, Mac and his family decided to try an experimental surgical procedure that would implant and secure a new artificial valve allowing proper blood flow to his lungs.
Mac was diagnosed with a heart condition called tetralogy of Fallot which involves a combination of different heart abnormalities. Many patients with the disease are born with a small, narrow passageway for blood flow from the right ventricle of the heart to the pulmonary artery (which is necessary for oxidization of the blood). Tetralogy of Fallot is diagnosed in about 2,500 babies each year in the United States. Mac also has VACTERL association, which is a genetic condition that involves abnormalities in six different parts in the body.

Mac first noticed problems in his teenage years when he started feeling exhausted much faster than normal. He became short of breath, which so his parents took him to Philadelphia hospital to see a pediatric cardiologist who detected a strange hearth rhythm, and an enlarged right ventricle.

Surgery is often conducted during infancy to enlarge the passageway, yet over time, it can continue to stretch, affecting the right ventricle directly. In cases like Mac’s, the right ventricle then faces issues pumping the blood correctly. Rather than go through the stress and risk of an open heart surgery, they decided as a family to have the experimental procedure performed. During the procedure, the surgeon inserted a Harmony valve through one of Mac’s veins with the help of a catheter.

The procedure was a success and before Mac knew it, he was running alongside his friends. By the following fall at school, he felt better than he had in years.

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