Best Life: New technique helps premature babies

Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 6:34 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2023 at 7:02 AM CST
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - One out of 10 babies in the United States will be born premature, putting them at higher risk of being born with a hole in their heart.

Many times, these holes will close by themselves but some babies need open-heart surgery. A new device is allowing doctors to treat their tiniest patients with less risk.

Baby Jaden was born 17 weeks premature.

“He could fit in the palm of your hand. He was one pound, 10 ounces at birth. He did come out not breathing on his own,” said Jaden’s mom, Tiffany Stewart.

Jaden had a large hole between the two blood vessels leading from his heart called patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA. It can cause a lifetime of respiratory problems.

“He had a blood vessel in his chest that ordinarily closes after you’re born, but when you’re born prematurely, sometimes it doesn’t close and that blood vessel causes extra blood flow to go through your lungs, which makes it hard to get off of respiratory support,” said Wolfson Children’s Hospital pediatric oncologist, Robert English, MD.

Dr. English says it’s normal to treat bigger babies with this problem, but not one as tiny as Jaden.

Instead of major surgery, a new device called the Piccolo allowed Dr. English to use a catheter – inserted through Jaden’s groin – to guide a wire mesh device through the vessels to close the opening.

“It’s just like a plug. So, it goes into the vessel and kind of plugs the vessel up,” said Dr. English.

The plug can be smaller than a pea and there’s no need to remove it.

After six months in the NICU, Jaden is finally where he belongs.

“Just having him home in our own space, just meant everything to us. Jaden is perfect. He’s so sweet. He’s such a sweet baby,” said Tiffany.

By avoiding a major surgery, babies run a much lower risk of infection, can expect a quicker discharge, and have a lifetime of healthier lungs.

Contributors to this news report include Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

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