A Cure for the Funky Heart?!?!

I’ve got Google Alerts searching for the appearance of certain Heart Defect words and phrases across the internet, and they deliver new information to my computer every night. The information is new to me, but not always new.

So imagine my surprise when I read this report from a 1981 edition of the Scandinavian Cardiovascular Journal. Obviously, the internet didn’t exist in 1981 (or exist in the form that we know today) so this couldn’t have been put on line then; apparently another organization recently uploaded it – and Google Alerts “hit” on the phrase Tricuspid Atresia.

In eight patients from 1976 until 1980, tricuspid atresia (TA) was corrected with valved xenograft conduits…


This is unreal – in this trial, eight patients with Tricuspid Atresia were given a conduit that ran from the Right Atrium to the Pulmonary Artery, or a conduit that connected the Right Atrium to the Right Ventricle and “jumped” the missing Tricuspid Valve. This is the first time I have heard of this… but it sounds as if it might work.

All patients suffered from transient right-heart failure postoperatively and eventually developed normalized cardiac function throughout the first two months after operation.

Holy cow, it did work! All eight went through a passing phase of right side heart failure that quickly stabilized, and in two months their hearts began to function normally!

X-ray examination showed normalization of the heart size in the majority of the patients, and in those with conduits between the right atrium and the right ventricle a considerable enlargement of the right ventricular chamber together with normalization of right ventricular contractility had developed. Arterial oxygen saturation, haemoglobin and haematocrit values had normalized in all patients.

“Normalization” is a word I like to read – especially when pertaining to Heart Defect, and for damn sure when it’s MY defect! There was one adverse outcome – one patient died of “intractable right ventricular failure, septicaemia and intravascular coagulation” – in layman’s terms,  there was blood poisoning, runaway blood clotting and the Right Ventricle failed for an undetermined reason.

Two patients with valved conduits between the right atrium and the right ventricle showed a normal unrestricted level of activity without medication, while patients with valved conduits between the right atrium and the main pulmonary artery were digitalized with an almost normal level of activity. Early repair with valved conduits of patients with TA is advocated.

But despite the success of this very limited trial, I can not find any information about followup trials. Today’s Tricuspid Atresia patients do not have this treatment option. Which begs the question:

What happened?

The obvious answer to why this isn’t being used today is “Something went wrong.” – but what? I’d certainly like to know. With 2009 technology, this trial could very well be worth repeating.


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11 Responses to “A Cure for the Funky Heart?!?!”

  1. Joye Says:

    That sounds just like what Ethan has, sort of 🙂 During his last surgery, his old homograft conduit was replaced with a Medtronic product called the Contegra conduit. It’s actually a valved jugular vein(artery?) from a cow! It goes from his right ventricle (instead of the RA) into the pulmonary artery. He’ll need more surgeries as he grows, since the conduit won’t grow with him, but that should be it.

    Keep researching! Maybe something will pop up…

  2. Casey's Mom Says:

    Ummm, wow. It sounds so simple, yet you are right, WHY isn’t it an option for TA patients like my son anymore? Thanks for posting this info. Keep us updated please!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    This is very cool. I’ve been finding the same thing with “old” but conclusive pulse ox studies. Have you thought about getting in touch with those physicians? Even if retired most are willing to give you the lowdown. Thx for sharing this! Annamarie #1in100

  4. Anonymous Says:

    might be not much money in there for the #1 ranked cash cow in hospitals. You are going from 3 surgeries to just 1 simple surgery.

    • Steve Says:

      Heart surgery is expensive, but the three surgeries required to palliate Tricuspid Atresia aren’t usually considered “Cash Cow” procedures – they are a necessity for the patient to live.

      Besides, imagine your doctor come to you and says “Your child has a heart defect named Tricuspid Atresia. He’ll always be limited in physical activity, have to take numerous medications, and the cold that makes his friend miss one day of school will keep him out for a week. He’ll probably die 20 to 30 years short of a normal lifespan. We have a new operation that can fix it – for good, and forever.” You’d pay dearly for that operation, wouldn’t you?

      It’s not always about the almighty dollar.

  5. Patients for a Moment #14 « DUNCAN CROSS Says:

    […] Steve at Adventures of a Funky Heart wonders if a study from 1981 suggests a possible cure for his illness – and wonders why there hasn’t been any follow-up […]

  6. amanda Says:

    Bring the study in to your doctor – see what he/she says! Good find!

  7. Ezra's mom Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Just curious if you found out anything more. I’ve obtained a copy of this article to take to E’s cardiology appointment tomorrow, but thought I would check in here too.

  8. Bill Says:

    I’ve had a valved conduit from the RA to RV since 1976. Had to have it changed out in 99. Conduit and valve get occluded. They started out with 2 valves I believe.

  9. Clinical Research Says:

    Many people don’t know about all these…
    thanks for this article… I’ll share this to all

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