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The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital


AnaliahBaby Analiah Paves the Way for Newborns with Severe Heart Defects

It’s fitting that baby Analiah Duarte Escorcia was born in February, Heart Month. Thanks to groundbreaking cardiovascular surgery performed at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, soon after her birth in 2012, she is now the poster child for a novel new procedure that seems poised to become the “holy grail” for children with heart valve defects. Little Analiah came into the world with one of the most devastating of heart defects, called Epstein’s anomaly. “She had two defective heart valves and had very limited options,” recalled her surgeon, Dr. Redmond P. Burke, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children's. “Her heart was massively enlarged and had compressed both of her lungs severely. The mortality rate for this defect is among the highest for any congenital heart problem.” Prevailing treatment options are limited for patients with these challenges. One current approach is to close the valve completely with a patch and turn the child’s heart into a rudimentary single ventricle, requiring multiple subsequent operations. However, no available mechanical or biological valve would safely fit within the child’s heart. Ever the innovator, Dr. Burke used extracellular matrix (ECM) material, developed from porcine intestines by biotechnology leader CorMatrix Cardiovascular, to craft the new valve in the operating room. The valve was then implanted, with sutures anchoring it to the support structures in the child’s right ventricle.

Now at home with her family, Analiah has had a remarkable recovery. A year later, the valve continues to function well and the child is on minimal medication. The true test will be the continued growth of the valve over time.

Analiah and her momDr. Burke noted that the ECM shows great promise for babies requiring valve repairs and replacements as the material stimulates the patient’s natural wound-healing mechanisms, allowing the patient to regrow healthy tissue, effectively becoming an integrated part of the patient’s body.

“This is the holy grail of heart valve reconstruction,” he said. “Our hope is that this revolutionary extracellular matrix technology will allow stem cells to be attached to the valve and become normal valve tissue, capable of growth, so that the child’s tricuspid valve will not have to be replaced in the future.” Children receiving transplants with current biological or mechanical valves typically must undergo reoperations for valve replacement procedures every 10 years or so, or as the valve wears out or the child outgrows it. “We are hopeful that this technology will prove to be a new standard of care in congenital heart surgery, allowing us to create heart valves that will grow with our smallest newborn into functioning adult valves,” said Dr. Burke.

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For more information about The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital or to make an appointment, please call (305) 662-8301.
Optum Center of Excellence

U.S. News Best Children's Hospitals 

Recognition and Outcomes Tell the Story

The Heart Program provides care for more children with congenital heart disorders than any other hospital in Florida and has been ranked among the nation’s best for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery by U.S.News & World Report.

What’s more, The Heart Program has cardiovascular surgery outcomes that are among the very best in the nation, according to a U.S.News & World Report assessment conducted as part of the most recent ranking.

Nicklaus Children's Heart Program is a qualified participant in Aetna’s Institutes of Excellence™  network.

A Distinguished History of Saving Little Hearts

During the 1960s, Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, became the first facility in Florida to perform pediatric open-heart surgery. Over the years, the hospital has continued to build on this tradition of leadership and excellence in pediatric cardiology.

In 1995, Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, recruited top cardiac physicians and surgeons in pediatric cardiology to oversee new services that included Florida’s first dedicated Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, a state-of-the-art Interventional Cardiac Catheterization Program, and, later, a Clinical Research Program and Electrophysiology Program.

The Ultimate in High-Tech meets High-Touch

The Heart Program offers the most advanced diagnostic, surgical and interventional techniques and equipment for treatment and management of pediatric cardiovascular conditions. The pediatric cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology laboratories are the most technologically advanced in existence, allowing The Heart Program to offer children the latest innovations.

While in this high-tech arena, children and their families are at the center of a multidisciplinary medical effort. They are surrounded by a team of doctors, nurses and staff who know, through years of experience, just how to meet the special needs of the tiniest patients, as well as how to support families in managing the stress of having a child in a critical-care setting.

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