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Five innovative ways UF Health physicians approach congenital heart care

A baby looking up at lights, wearing a jumper with a felt heart on it.

Baby with a felt heart

From Feb. 7 to 14, UF Health recognizes Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, to raise awareness of the most common type of birth defect found in newborns. At the UF Health Congenital Heart Center, specialists use innovative methods to improve the lives of pediatric and adult patients. Services range from bridges transplantation, advanced imaging and ventricular assist devices. Here is a guide to some of the latest advancements in congenital heart care being used at the center:

Single ventricle home monitoring program – iPad app

Congenital heart condition: single-ventricle defects, such as hypoplastic left-heart syndrome

The UF Health Congenital Heart Center began a program to improve patient-to-physician communication in 2017. Caregivers of patients with single-ventricle defects are instructed to use an app to report their health to nurses and doctors. This app allows caregivers to monitor and record their child’s condition in real time. Vital signs and other updates are then sent to a clinical portal through the app. As a result, the congenital cardiology team can see subtle, day-to-day changes in a patient’s state. Thanks to this system, caregivers spend less time waiting for returned phone calls or emergency doctor visits. By catching dramatic changes early and needing less co-payments, the app also saves families money.

3-D printing

Congenital heart conditions: many

3-D printing is becoming more and more common within the medical arena. UF Health surgeons have been implementing this trend in numerous fields including pediatric cardiology and heart surgery. By creating 3-D models of organs including the heart, medical teams can view the organ from all angles. This tool is used more commonly in patients with complex conditions that require the organs to be looked at from. One example of this was when surgeons needed to carefully plan the separation of a pair of conjoined twins’ heart.

Melody® transcatheter pulmonary valve

Congenital heart condition: aortic stenosis

Melody® transcatheter pulmonary valve replacement helps a patient’s damaged aortic valve, a valve between the left ventricle and the aorta. The minimally invasive procedure is seen as revolutionary in narrowing aortic valves in children and young adults, and is a way to void open-heart surgery. As a result of the procedure, the new valve prevents the aorta from overworking to push blood through a once-narrow valve.

Berlin Heart®

Congenital heart conditions: cardiomyopathy, end-stage heart failure

The Berlin Heart® ventricular assist devices, or VADs, was designed specifically for infants and children facing heart failure. The device helps the heart pump blood from one of the main pumping chambers to the rest of the body or to the other side of the heart. These pumps may be implanted in the body or connected to a pump outside of the body. UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital was the first hospital in Florida to implant a Berlin Heart® in 2007.

SynCardia Total Artificial Heart®

Congenital heart condition: end-stage heart failure,

When a patient’s condition is severe enough, doctors need to waitlist the patient for an organ donation. The SynCardia Total Artificial Heart® works like a human heart transplant. The device replaces both failing heart ventricles and the four heart valves. This eliminates the sources of end-stage biventricular heart failure. Unlike a human-donor heart, the Total Artificial Heart is immediately available and even portable. It is the only FDA-approved artificial heart.

About the author

For the media

Media contact

Peyton Wesner
Communications Manager for UF Health External Communications (352) 273-9620