Posts Tagged ‘Cyanosis’


April 2, 2010

He was born in Germany and composed many works of classical music. He graduated from medical school twice. He worked with Charles Lindburgh. And he started a Cardiac Catheterization program at the hospital where heart surgery was born. Not only did Dr. Richard Bing see history being made, he helped make it.

Hired in 1942 as an instructor in the Johns Hopkins University Department of Medicine, Bing traveled from New York to his new job in Baltimore. Crossing the Chesapeake Bay on a ferry, Bing noted no less than six people with Cyanosis. Their destination, he surmised, was probably the hospital. It was two years before Blalock and Taussig would attempt the first Congenital Heart Surgery, but Johns Hopkins already had a reputation. If your child has a bad heart, it was said, get them to Hopkins.

There wasn’t much at all that could be done, but Dr. Helen Taussig knew almost everything there was to know about the human heart. Taussig was a huge believer in research, and would spend hours examining defective hearts. Despite her best efforts – she often asked the parents of her deceased patients for permission to dissect the heart, and spent hours studying them in her lab – there was very little progress being made. Even after the first heart operation, very little was known. There was ONE operation, and it was designed to help relive only ONE defect. Everyone else was still out in the cold.

By 1945  Dr. Alfred Blalock asked Bing to set up a Cardiac Catheterization unit at the hospital. Dr. Helen Taussig, who had already been eyeing him suspiciously, hit the roof. Dr. Bing explained their constant disagreements:

She was very jealous and guarded her territory; she considered the sick children as her own, having no family herself. She was also deaf, which increased her suspicion of the world beyond.

(That link contains not only a good description of Taussig-Bing Anomaly, but an in-depth look at Johns Hopkins Hospital during the Blalock-Bing-Taussig years. I highly recommend reading it!)

Dr. Bing eventually left Johns Hopkins, continuing to do major research in the Cath Lab. While at Wayne State University he did some of the early work involving PET scans, using computers belonging to Ford Motor Company to run the scanner.

Dr. Bing retired and now lives comfortably in California, and last year celebrated his 100th birthday!

Cyanosis causes Cancer?!?!

March 9, 2010

There is a new scientific study recently published that very well could prove a link between Cyanosis (A common occurrence with Congenital Heart Defects) and – of all things – cancer. The theory of young Cardiac Kids receiving high doses of radiation which possibly cause cancer later in life may prove to only be a theory.

As is often the case, researchers were looking not looking for the results they found. Dolores Takemoto, a professor of Biochemistry at Kansas State University, was studying proteins in the human eye. Her ultimate goal was to try to find ways for diabetics to save their eyesight, but she stumbled upon an unexpected discovery: The protein Coonexin46 (Cx46) will appear when there are low levels of oxygen in the body. This low oxygen condition is known as Hypoxia. And Cx46 is present in cancer cells – especially breast cancer.

So what does this have to do with Congenital Heart Defects? Severe Hypoxia causes Cyanosis… a term that many CHDers are familiar with.

OK, so if Cx46 is present in cancer cells, and appears in the presence of Hypoxia, is there anything we could do to stop it? Yes – but you need a medication that hasn’t been invented yet.

Takemoto’s lab is working on creating a specific  Small Interfering Ribonucleic Acid, also known as a siRNA, to lower the levels of Cx46. A siRNA is a double strand of RNA molecules, and they counter certain genes. This is literally targeted gene therapy, a siRNA (in theory) will attack and smother a certain cell type and leave everything else alone.

Another researcher working on this problem with Takemoto is following a different path, studying the cancer prevention implications. The discovery of the Hypoxia/Cx46 connection opens the door not only to advances in fighting Congenital Heart Defects and Aquired Heart Diseases, but also to various types of cancer research and diabetes control.

“If we win here we can run the table.” – Sam Seaborn, The West Wing

Been There and Done That

December 2, 2009

I’ve spoken to two other Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) survivors over the past couple of days, and both of them have commented that I am easy to talk to. Not because I have the gift of gab, I’m certain, but I’m easy to talk to because all three of us share the same problems. Not the same CHD, but the same experiences. “I can tell you that I’m having a bad day and you know what I mean,” one of my friends said. “If I tell someone else I have to explain it.”

Perhaps that is the reason that so many of us in the CHD community are so close – shared experiences. Exactly how do you describe the effects of a heart defect?  When I was a part of  the Adult Congenital Heart Association’s (ACHA) group that appeared before the Social Security Administration last year, we gave the Commissioners a folder of letters from ACHA members and Adult Congenital Cardiologists. Glancing through the folder, I read a great description of the effects of a Cyanotic Heart Defect:

Hold your breath while you run around your house twice.

If you are Heart Healthy, you may try doing that as an experiment, and feel winded and a bit lightheaded for a few moments. You may even feel as if you may pass out if you don’t sit down. But you’ll get your breath and your color back, and soon you won’t even feel tired. But when you have severe Cyanosis, you feel that way all the time.

If you haven’t been there, it’s hard to imagine.

How Moms could help reduce Heart Defects!

May 15, 2009

There is new research from Canada that is showing a lot of potential:  Folic Acid, a form of Vitamin B9, could be a factor in lowering the occurrences of severe heart defects.

Earlier research links Folic Acid to lower occurrences of Spina Bifida and may lower the chances of premature birth, but new studies have shown another possible benefit of Folic Acid.  Researchers in the Province of Quebec studied the rate of serious heart defect births from 1989 to 1998, and again from 1998 to 2005. (In 1998, Quebec mandated that Folic Acid be added to grain products such as pasta and bread).

From 1989 to 1998, the number of children born with serious heart defects in Quebec averaged 1.64 per 1000 children born. While that seems to be lower than the United States figure I usually quote – 8 out of 1000 children are born with a heart defect – it’s different. The Canadian study is tracking serious heart defects, the US number is the total number of children born with a heart defect of any kind. Serious heart defects are usually defined as any of the defects that cause Cyanosis.

In the period before Folic Acid additives was mandated for grain products, the Canadians found an average of 1.64 children out of 1000 were born with a serious heart defect. After the introduction of Folic Acid, the rate of serious heart defects dropped – from 1.64 to 1.47 children out of 1000!

And while the link hasn’t been proven, there is a lot of evidence to show that it is there. The decrease in serious heart defects began to occur at about the same time as a higher level of Folic Acid was introduced into the diet. And the decrease occurred in spite of the fact that more women were overweight when they gave birth and they were having children later in life, both factors that usually increase the chances of heart defects.

While there is no guarantee that any medical condition can be avoided, it makes sense to do everything possible to tip the odds in your child’s favor.  So ask your personal physician his/her opinion about taking Folic Acid during your pregnancy.

Your friend,

Bet ya didn’t know…!

March 11, 2009


I’m late, I know I’m late… the hernia has been in a bad mood. I’ve spent plenty of time stretched out on the couch with a heating pad today. But the hernia is not going to win. I am going to win, and Mr. Hernia needs to realize this and just start playing nice!

We’ve got a lot of new links that have been building up, so there is plenty for you to read tonight. First of all, here’s a cool 3-D model of the heart used to prep for surgery.  It’s a computer model of the patient’s actual heart… study it, turn it, look at from every angle, and there is less chance of nasty surprises happening during the actual surgery!

Think fast! Five Congenital Heart Defects present Cyanosis early in life, and all start with the letter T. Can you name them? The answers are below.

By studying Chicken Hearts we can learn something about human hearts!

Here’s another surgery simulator! This one is tough, if you mess up here, call your lawyer!

China hasn’t been taking care of it’s environment, and it is coming back to haunt them. Chinese families are getting crushed, too.

Here’s a long post on Infective Endocarditis (split into three parts! Make sure to note the last paragraph in the third box!) Endocarditis is something you don’t want to mess with, but you’re more susceptible to it if you have a heart defect.

Barney Fife used to say that “We have to nip it in the bud, Andy!” He’d love this: Heart surgery done BEFORE the child is born!

Answer to the question above: The five blue T’s are: Tetralogy (of Fallot); Transposition (of the Great Arteries); Truncus Arteriosus; Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return; and Tricuspid Atresia!