Lucas R. Collazo, MD, is the Medical Director of Pediatric and Congenital Cardiac Surgery at Inova Children’s Hospital. He is board-certified in thoracic, cardiac and pediatric cardiac surgery and is a member of Inova Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery. He practices with the Inova Children’s Heart Program and the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute and has a special interest in congenital heart disease.
During his opening monologue last week, an emotional Jimmy Kimmel, of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” told viewers about his newborn son, who was born with a congenital heart defect.
After sharing the news during his late-night talk show, Kimmel’s story went viral. Unfortunately, his experience is not terribly uncommon. About 1 in 100 babies are born with heart defects, making congenital heart disease the most common of all birth defects.
The good news is that treatments for those defects are improving all the time. At the Inova Children’s Heart Program and across the country, we’re doing amazing things to help babies like Billy survive and thrive.
Congenital Heart Disease: Better Treatments
While heart defects aren’t rare, each one is unique. Tetralogy of Fallot, for instance, makes up only about 2% to 5% of those defects. Even among those babies, we see a lot of variation from case to case. Some infants with the condition will require surgery within the first few months of life. Others, like Kimmel’s son, need immediate surgery to survive.
Overall, about a quarter of children born with heart defects will require immediate surgery. Many more will face operations in the years to come.
While no parent wants to hear that their child needs heart surgery, the odds of success are high. Today more than 90% of babies born with congenital heart disease are expected to live to adulthood.
That level of success is due to advances at every level of care:
- Prenatal diagnosis. Many heart defects are diagnosed with ultrasound before the baby is even born. That gives parents and doctors time to prepare. (The Inova Fetal Care Program provides expert diagnosis and a coordinated delivery plan for babies at risk of congenital heart problems and other disorders.)
- Heart surgery. New tools and techniques have improved the success of surgeries to repair hearts.
- Postnatal management and post-surgical care. We have made improvements in caring for these children in the hospital, both before they undergo surgery and during recovery.
- Long-term follow-up. Today we do a much better job following people with congenital heart disease and monitoring their condition as they grow into adulthood.
In the past, children who had surgery for heart defects were often treated as though they were “cured.” They usually received minimal long-term follow-up. Now we know how important it is to monitor these patients throughout their lives.
While most of our young patients go on to live healthy lives, they can be at risk for future heart problems as they grow and develop. To connect these patients to expert care, we launched Inova’s Adult Congenital Heart Clinic in 1994.
At the time, it was one of the first such programs in the country. Now many other heart centers are developing similar programs to treat adults who were born with heart defects.
There’s a happy reason such services are in high demand: Thanks to improvements in surgery and care, adult survivors of congenital heart disease now outnumber children born with heart defects in the U.S.
A success story close to home: Infant Eliza George gets lifesaving heart surgery
Now two years old, Eliza George was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot while still in utero. With the help of the Inova Children’s Hospital Fetal Care Center in Northern Virginia, her parents Ginny and Erik George were guided through the process of researching and preparing for her heart surgery ahead of time. Dr. Lucas Collazo led the operation to repair the hole in her heart and enlarge the narrowed area restricting blood flow to her lungs, restoring normal blood flow. Today, Eliza is thriving and her parents have been reassured that with close monitoring and follow-up by the cardiac team, Eliza can lead a normal life, even while she faces the possibility of a future surgery as she grows.
Family Fun Run: Sun, June 4