Child’s Heart Defect Fixed Without Surgery

First use of new technology at WVU Children’s Hospital


MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Five-year-old Breanna Pruitt missed three days of class at Miss Mary’s Nursery School in Bethesda, Ohio this week. But she’ll be back soon, minus an extra blood vessel in her heart that doctors at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital repaired without surgery.

“This is so much better and safer than open heart surgery,” said her mother, Darlene Corder.  “And she won’t have to see her heart doctor any more.”

Shortly after her birth, Breanna’s doctors diagnosed her with patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) – a condition where some of the blood pumped by the heart flows back in through a passageway that normally closes in the first weeks of life.

Left untreated, the condition can lead to heart failure and an early death. For decades, pediatric heart surgeons have operated to close off the PDA and give children a normal life.  The new procedure repairs the defect more safely through a tiny opening.

WVU pediatric cardiologist Todd Gudausky, M.D., was able to close Breanna’s PDA with an Amplatzer ductal occluder – a tiny, umbrella-shaped mesh of fine wires that he placed into her heart without surgery. Dr. Gudausky guided the device through a one-millimeter diameter catheter  -- about the thickness of a pencil lead -- that followed a complicated route from a needle punch in her leg, through blood vessels to her heart, and across the PDA to her aorta.

There, he popped open the four-millimeter-wide umbrella and gently tugged it back into place blocking the PDA. A few minutes later, a tiny clot formed inside the occluder, shutting off the backflow of blood and permanently binding the device to her heart.

An angiogram image taken after the procedure showed the device was properly seated and doing its job.

Gudausky is a pediatric interventional cardiologist – a doctor who specializes in treating children’s heart problems through the use of minimally-invasive devices, guided by high-resolution medical imaging. WVU Children’s Hospital provides advanced heart care to hundreds of West Virginia children every year – and attracts many patients, like Breanna, from other states and countries.

Her procedure is a first for WVU Children’s Hospital, but it will not be the last. PDA is one of the most common heart defects among young children, developing in one of every 300 births. Gudausky is highly experienced with the procedure, and performed about 50 non-invasive heart repairs before joining the WVU faculty earlier this year.

“We want to send children home as soon as possible, with the best chance for a quick recovery,” said Giovanni Piedimonte, M.D., chair of pediatrics and medical director of WVU Children’s Hospital. “By adding non-surgical treatments for congenital heart defects, we are providing an advanced level of care for our children, reducing pain, and making their lives easier. It’s a lot easier on the parents, too.”

For several years, Breanna has been a patient of another WVU Children’s Hospital cardiologist, John Phillips, M.D.  Both Dr. Phillips and Dr. Gudausky hold regular children’s heart clinics in Wheeling in cooperation with Ohio Valley Medical Center and Wheeling Hospital.

“We talked with Dr. Phillips about when to do this, and decided it would be good to get it fixed before she starts kindergarten next year,” Corder said as Breanna prepared to leave the hospital on Wednesday, only a day after the procedure. “We know this is the best place for her to get heart care.”

Breanna will return to WVU Children’s Hospital in a month for a follow up visit, and is scheduled to see Phillips just one more time next spring. Fewer doctor visits will mean more time for play in her sandbox, on the swings, and with her dog, Bootsie.

- WVU -

For more information:
Steve Bovino, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087

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