Xmas Appeal Research | Action Medical Research

Jessica in hospital at Christmas having open heart surgery

Jessica has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition which affects one in 5,000 babies.

HLHS occurs when the left side of the heart fails to form properly.

Less than four decades ago, babies with HLHS normally died within just weeks of birth.


Without treatment, babies with HLHS quickly become seriously ill. The lower left side of their heart is much smaller than usual and cannot pump enough blood to the body. Improvements in surgery have given babies a much better chance of surviving and living a relatively normal life.

Sadly though, some babies still lose their lives and others have ongoing health problems. 

Babies with HLHS normally have three complex operations – the first when they’re less than two weeks old. Planning these operations is difficult, because there’s little evidence as to exactly which surgical technique would work best for each child at each stage.

Research into the pros and cons of each technique is needed urgently.

Fighting for little lives

Thanks to Action, Dr Lamata’s team are analysing MRI scans of over 150 babies with HLHS, using specially created computer techniques, to generate a virtual 3D model – or avatar – of each baby’s heart and its major vessel, the aorta.

“By comparing virtual 3D models of babies’ hearts before and after surgery, we hope to reveal the benefits and drawbacks of different surgical techniques,” says Dr Lamata. 


3D heart image“This could improve babies’ chances of surviving and having the best possible quality of life during childhood and beyond” adds Dr Lamata.

But much more research is needed.

We urgently need your help to fund more groundbreaking medical research for children like Jessica in 2017.

Please give a gift to Action to help fund vital research.

Treasure the moments

To celebrate Mother’s Day Louise, Jessica's mum, shares her thoughts on the wonder and worry of her very special ‘mummy journey’.

Read Louise's story

Jessica appeal

We urgently need your help to fund more groundbreaking medical research for children like Jessica in 2017.

Donate now

Meet the researcher

Dr Pablo Lamata

Researcher Dr Pablo Lamata explains how his work developing 3D computer models of babies’ hearts is both thrilling and motivating…

Read more

Jessica's story

Jessica had her first open heart surgery when she was just one week old, then another at 14 weeks and 6 months, spending her first Christmas in hospital

Read Jessica's story

Help us spread the word