ST. LOUIS – Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a general term for a range of birth defects that affect the normal way the heart works. 

In the United States, nearly 1% of babies are born with congenital heart defects, or about 40,000 births per year. Of that 1%, 1 in 4 of those babies will have a critical CHD, which means they will need surgery and other procedures in their first year of life.

As a parent, the idea of your child needing open-heart surgery can be daunting, even when it is necessary to save your child’s life. SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital is home to the region’s only pediatric hybrid cardiac catheterization suite to use leading-edge research and technology to provide the very latest, minimally invasive treatment options for children with heart problems.

Dr. Ugo Nwankwo is a SLUCare cardiologist at Cardinal Glennon who said there are new advancements for pulmonary valve replacements that can be performed in the cath lab instead of open-heart surgery.  Undergoing a Cath Lab procedure rather than traditional open heart surgery means quicker recovery for your child and less risk. 

“So, we have the only hybrid cath lab in the region which allows us to do minimally invasive cardiac catheterizations and allows us to have procedures in which the surgeons can do surgeries concurrently,” said Nwankwo. “That allows us to do a multitude of complex procedures that cannot be done in a traditional cath lab.”

A hybrid cath lab means, “a hybrid suite is larger, so it allows for equipment that is needed for the surgeons to do their part of the procedure. They need a larger space, they need the bright lights and the equipment needed to do their part of the procedure.” 

Nwankwo said this new hybrid suite gives expanded options for patients than traditional therapies. This new option means that there is a collaboration between the surgeons and cardiologists giving the option of doing more complex and more innovative procedures to be less invasive and therefore decrease the risk to the patient. 

“Valve replacements have been done traditionally through surgery, but over the past 20 years, the industry has innovative new valves that allow us to implant new valves into the heart via catheters, rather than open-heart surgery which was happening in the past,” said Nwankwo.

To find out more about Congenital Heart Defects, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on News 11 at 7 p.m. and FOX 2 News at 9 p.m.