Better Surgery!

Here’s an interesting report from the March 2006 issue of Heart: A look at the outcomes of surgical correction for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, or HLHS. What makes this report so unusual is that it covers twelve years at the same hospital: While surgeons, doctors, and nurses come and go, the hospital policies and standards of care stay in place and hopefully improve. So this can be considered an unbiased study. When results from more than one facility is used, the results can be affected by a hospital that has more (or less) successful results than average.

Beginning in 1992, 333 patients underwent the Stage I surgical correction for HLHS, also known as the Norwood procedure. 203 patients underwent the Stage II operation (the Bidirectional Glenn), and 81 had the Fontan Procedure (Stage III). While HLHS is difficult to overcome, the report does not elaborate on the difference in numbers. It is quite possible that patients had their Stage II or Stage III operations at different facilities.

Over the course of the study, mortality after the Stage I operation dropped from 46% during the first year (1992) to just 16% in the last year (2004). The survival rate jumped dramatically in 2002, when the Stage I was altered: the Modified Blalock-Taussig Shunt that was part of the operation was replaced by a Right Ventricle to Pulmonary Artery Conduit.

Medical research is a long, tedious assignment – there are very few “bolt of lightning” moments and it often requires gathering massive amounts of data. But it works, and is often the only way to learn if a new theory is both effective and safe.

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One Response to “Better Surgery!”

  1. Jen Heath Says:

    Hi Steve,
    I have been following the Funky Heart Blog for awhile and wanted to say hello. My 10 month old daughter, Gracie, has HRHS – pulmonary atresia IVS. We’ve had some bumps in the road with her surgeries, but overall she now is doing great. I really appreciate your updates and sense of humor. Thanks for the great information!
    Jen

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