ATLANTA — Premature infants will have a better shot at living healthy lives thanks to a new, groundbreaking procedure being done at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
A small vessel is left open in the heart of many infants who are born prematurely. While that vessel can be closed through invasive surgery, this new procedure is making it easier for tiny babies to recover.
The team at Children's performed the procedure on a baby weighing just 1 pound and 1 ounce.
"If you hold your fist like this, that's the size of your heart. So, if you imagine a 1-pound baby and their fist. It's not even the size of your pinky nail if you will. So as you can imagine, it's a really small heart," Dr. Allen Ligon said.
Ligon is an interventional cardiologist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and just completed a heart vessel closure on the 1 pound and 1 ounce baby girl.
The team was able to place a device inside the vessel in her tiny heart, in order to close it.
"I think this is really exciting. We don't have the data yet, it's still really new. But in the past, the only way to treat this was a surgery and it wasn't well-tolerated," he said.
Dr. Ligon said surgeons used to have to go in through the rib cage to close the vessel, but now, they can use a tiny catheter to implant a device to close it.
"We have not had the technology or the capability to do this in these really small and medically fragile babies. These babies are born extremely early and they're extremely sick," he said.
Surgeons have performed this procedure on adults and kids, but Dr. Ligon said it was intense to have a 1-pound baby on the table.
"As you can imagine, a millimeter forward or backward, to the left or right, it can make a huge difference in the outcomes for these children," he said.
The team rehearsed the procedure to get it down to less than an hour, so the infant could return to the NICU and continue getting intensive care.
She's now thriving after having that vessel in her heart closed.
"We are elated about the outcomes. The kids have tolerated it really well and the results have been outstanding," he said.