Operating on a heart the size of a walnut is an ultimate challenge in surgery. And yet, there are many conditions that may require cardiac surgery in childhood. In fact, heart problems are quite common in newborns: nearly 1 in every 100 live births comes with any congenital heart defect. There are more than 200 forms of congenital heart disorders, and some of them are mild while others are life-threatening. One in three of them needs treatment or surgery within the first days of life. In the past, a baby coming to life with a serious cardiac malformation had a slight chance of survival.
Nowadays, the prognosis for people with congenital heart diseases has improved dramatically due to developments in medicine and technology. Advanced surgical techniques can restore normal heart functions and ensure a healthy life for more than 90% of the affected children. ACIBADEM Children’s Heart Center is one of those that change the trends in pediatric cardiac care. It is home to some of the most distinguished specialists in pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery in Turkey and the region. With a cumulative experience of more than 15.000 pediatric heart patients from all over the world, they are able to provide diagnosis and treatment options for the entire spectrum of cardiac conditions, even in the most complex cases.
Advanced diagnostic tools for detection of heart abnormalities
Heart disorders in children might be inborn or acquired later in life. Congenital heart defects are the most common diseases seen in infants and the most common type of birth defect. They emerge during the development of the fetus in the mother’s womb.
Severe abnormalities in heart function may require immediate intervention, and therefore, early detection is crucial for survival. Advanced technological diagnostic tools are used at ACIBADEM to determine the correct diagnosis. Electrocardiography (ECG), Chest X-ray, Echocardiography, Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE), Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerized Tomography (CT) are diagnostic methods that are mainly used for patients with pediatric heart diseases. A major improvement in recent years is the chance of diagnosing heart defects before birth, thanks to the improved prenatal imaging technologies. Fetal echocardiography is a simple, non-invasive diagnostic method similar to ultrasonography, and it can be used after the 16th gestational week of pregnancy. It allows a detailed examination of the baby’s heart while it is still in the womb, without any harm for the mother or the baby. If any problem is identified, the experienced medical team is well prepared even before birth with a treatment plan in place.
Full range of pediatric heart care and advanced surgical options
Some heart defects in children can be treated without surgery. Cardiac catheterization is another field in progress over the last few years. It allows solving some structural heart defects by transcatheter approach instead of traditional operation. Interventional procedures eliminate the need for open surgery. Narrowed veins or arteries can be opened up with balloon angioplasty; openings between the heart’s chambers can be closed, and even pulmonary valves can be replaced using special devices. At ACIBADEM, advanced interventional procedures are performed by highly experienced pediatric cardiologists with high success rates. Whenever possible, they choose minimally invasive approaches to reduce pain, recovery period and hospital stay for the little patients.
When surgery is required, the latest techniques and technologies come to help. At ACIBADEM Children’s Heart Center, all types of pediatric cardiac operations are performed routinely, with a special focus on complex congenital and neonatal heart surgeries. Open or closed, as well as minimally invasive methods are applied depending on specific patient cases. Sophisticated tech equipment supports the physicians for the best possible outcomes. In certain patients, heart anomalies can be eliminated through robotic surgery as well. After surgery, children are admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit, equipped with the latest systems available to be monitored and cared for by highly experienced specialists and nurses.
United for saving hearts
To be effective, a world-class surgeon is not enough. A genuine pediatric heart surgeon still needs a team of well-trained professionals in all related medical specialties. It is widely acknowledged that comprehensive services provided by multidisciplinary teams in well-equipped specialized facilities deliver the best outcomes for children with heart disorders. The pediatric heart care teams located at ACIBADEM Bakirkoy and ACIBADEM Atakent hospitals in Istanbul involve experienced physicians in pediatric cardiology, pediatric cardiovascular surgery, anesthesia and intensive care, cardiac imaging and radiology, neonatology and rehabilitation. They have all devoted years of efforts to understand better the specific physical and emotional needs of little heart patients. Treating more than 600 patients from many countries around the world every year, including cases deemed too complex for other heart centers, they have accumulated a depth of knowledge and experience. It results in a success rate of more than 95%, including complex cases.
Abdulla Hamed Altaey from Bahrain, a little hero with a big heart
Hi, my name is Abdulla Hamed Altaey, I am a 7-year-old great hero from Bahrain. I was born with several critical congenital heart defects. First, I was diagnosed with Double Outlet Right Ventricle and Transposition of the Great Arteries. Then, the tests showed also a patent ductus arteriosus and ventricular septal defect, yes, I can speak the medical language! In other words, the situation was really complicated. My condition would require many heart surgeries over the course of the first five years of my life. In 2014 and 2016, I travelled to India where two surgeries were done with no success. Then, my dad took me to ACIBADEM Hospital in Turkey where I met Professor Ersin Erek. He comes from Heroes Planet! He is positive, always smiling, and just lights up the hospital room when he visits me. I had one more open-heart surgery four weeks ago, and I am doing well ever since. Can you guess what I want to be when I grow up?