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  Healing Hearts: Diagnosing Congenital Heart Defects
July 15, 2009

Treating Maren’s Congenital Heart Defect

Dr. John Berger, Maren and Sarah Robinson
Dr. John Berger, Maren and Sarah Robinson

The Robinson family had just moved to New Mexico when Sarah Robinson, pregnant with her second child, learned that her fetus had hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

The Robinsons relocated to Washington, DC, to enlist the services of Children’s National Heart Institute at Children’s National Medical Center, the preeminent provider of fetal cardiac services in the region. Children’s Center for Prenatal Evaluation collaborates with the Fetal Heart team and Heart Institute to provide prenatal care to patients.

Maren, the Robinson’s newborn daughter, was immediately taken into surgery after birth. She had a procedure called the Norwood operation, which is the first in a series of three open heart surgeries performed on babies whose left ventricle and aorta are too small to supply blood to the body. The Norwood procedure does not cure the underlying heart defect, but enable infant patients to remain well until two follow-up surgeries can be performed.

“Children’s National is one of the few children’s hospitals in the country that has anesthesiologists specializing in both pediatric and cardiac anesthesiology. This greatly enhances the safety of our procedures and helps contribute to successful outcomes,” said Gerard Martin, MD, executive director of the Center for Heart, Lung, and Kidney Disease and co-director of Children’s National Heart Institute.

Maren recovered at Children’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU), which is staffed with a team of expert care physicians and pediatric nurses to treat and aid in the recovery of children with cardiac diseases and those who have had heart surgery. Children’s CICU provides state-of-the-art recovery and monitoring techniques designed specifically for recovering pediatric cardiac surgery patients.

Maren is now an active one-year-old. She has had two out of three surgeries that are needed, and both have been successful. “We know that the pre-screening was so important to the diagnosis and treatment for Maren and it ultimately helped us in making the choices that would save her life,” says Sarah.