Parents may feel frightened and alone when they learn their baby has a heart defect. But congenital heart defects are not uncommon—nearly one out of every 100 infants is born with one. Some of these babies have mild problems, but the diagnosis can be highly emotional when a newborn is among the one in four who has a critical defect. About half of all congenital heart defects are considered major, requiring cardiologic intervention or surgery.
Since its initial development in the 1970s and '80s, surgery for these conditions has come a long way. Today, better techniques and a deeper understanding of physiology and circulation have helped pediatric heart surgeons achieve excellent outcomes. Recent discoveries have also uncovered the role of genetics on the developing heart.
“A lot of things have happened that are quite exciting,” says Tain-Yen (T-Y) Hsia, MD, MSc, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery for Yale Medicine and Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. “Not only are our patients surviving operations with very low mortality—which has not always been the case—they also enjoy a better quality of life.”