This stretchy implant could help kids avoid repeated open-heart surgeries | Science News

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This stretchy implant could help kids avoid repeated open-heart surgeries

The elastic ring would ‘grow’ with a child’s heart

11:58am, October 17, 2017
child in hospital bed

SURGERY SAVER  A new kind of stretchy medical implant could limit the number of times pediatric patients have to go under the knife.

A new stretchy prosthetic could reduce the number of surgeries that children with leaking heart valves must undergo.

The device, a horseshoe-shaped implant that wraps around the base of a heart valve to keep it from leaking, is described online October 10 in Nature Biomedical Engineering. In adults, a rigid ring is used, but it can’t be implanted in children because it would constrict their natural heart growth. Instead, pediatric surgeons cinch their patients’ heart valves with stitches — which can break or pull through tissue as a child grows, requiring further surgery to repair.

It’s not uncommon for a child to require two to four of these follow-up procedures, says study coauthor Eric Feins, a cardiac surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Doctors in the United States perform over 1,000 pediatric heart valve repair surgeries each year.

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