Simulate the Human Heart? Without Missing a Beat
Babies born with a heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) need to have heart surgery in the first few days of their lives. That’s because the chamber of the heart responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to the body didn’t develop normally and is too small and weak for the task.
Surgeons rejigger blood circulation with a shunt so that the right ventricle can pump blood to the body. This is in addition to the heart doing its own job of sending blood to the lungs to get oxygenated. Adding the shunt is the first of three surgeries babies will need before they turn two to three years old.
Placing that first shunt is complex, as is the decision about exactly where to place it. It can be placed in one of two locations, which change the heart architecture in different ways. The two options both have pros and cons related to providing adequate blood flow to the body while not interfering with the growth of the vessels leading in and out of the heart.