St. Joseph's Children's Hospital Implants New Device to Repair Life-Threatening Heart Defect in Premature Babies
Life-saving heart technology offers hope for even the tiniest patients as little as two pounds
Samantha Castellanos-Santana was delivered at 30 weeks gestation and was born with an opening in her heart, a condition known as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). On Nov. 25, 2020, Samantha became the first patient in West Central Florida to have this type of heart defect repaired using Abbott’s Amplatzer Piccolo™ Occluder, a device smaller than a pea. St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital is the region’s first hospital to use the Piccolo device, the only device U.S. FDA approved to close PDAs in premature babies.
“The Piccolo Occluder greatly increases our ability to close PDAs in the tiniest, most medically fragile babies, offering better options for patients who need corrective treatment and are high risk to undergo heart surgery,” said Dr. Jeremy Ringewald, pediatric interventional cardiologist and the medical director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa.
The most common congenital heart defect occurring in premature babies, PDA occurs when a blood vessel in the fetal heart that is supposed to close after birth - the ductus arteriosus - remains open. According to Dr. Ringewald, this opening is present in normally developing infants and typically closes spontaneously shortly after birth. Often in babies born prematurely, the PDA fails to close. This makes it difficult for babies to breathe normally due to increased blood flow to the lungs.
During Samantha’s procedure, Dr. Ringewald inserted a tiny catheter tube into a vein in the leg and guided the catheter into the PDA. He then advanced the self-expanding, wire mesh device through the catheter to spring open in the PDA, sealing it closed immediately.
“Since the device is implanted through a minimally invasive procedure, many of the premature babies who are critically ill in the neonatal intensive care unit can be weaned from the breathing machine soon after the procedure,” said Dr. Ringewald.
He adds that since patients do not outgrow the device after implantation, there is no need for additional procedures related to the PDA. Once the device is placed to seal the opening, it becomes part of the baby’s tissue, and is sealed for life.
St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital is home to the Tampa Bay area’s only comprehensive congenital heart disease program, and its pediatric heart physicians perform hundreds of cardiac procedures each year to treat congenital and acquired heart conditions in children of any age, including newborns. A partnership between St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC provides families across Florida with unprecedented access to the highest level of pediatric heart care available. Together, they provide highly specialized cardiovascular care for patients ranging from babies in the womb to adults with congenital heart disease.