Help for babies with heart problems | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - October 2013

Help for babies with heart problems

If an adult has a heart defect, this can usually be treated with a stent – a small tube inserted into a blood vessel. Stents help to keep blood flowing and prevent weak blood vessels from bursting.

When a baby is born with a heart defect – known as congenital heart disease – a stent can be risky, as they can cause a blood clot or tear a vessel. Also, the stent doesn’t grow as the baby grows and its blood vessels get bigger.

Action funding is enabling scientists to develop a new type of stent especially for babies and children with congenital heart disease. Lead researcher Professor Alexander Seifalian from University College London says: “We hope our new stents will help overcome some important disadvantages of existing devices. For example, we are coating the new stents with a special material that’s designed to lower the risk of complications, such as bleeding or clot formation.

The size of the stent could also be increased throughout the child’s lifetime, meaning they could grow with the child, which isn’t possible at the moment.” It is hoped the new stents could stop some children from needing open heart surgery, reduce the risks of surgery and speed up recovery times.

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