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New miniature 3D cardiac probe may improve open heart surgery in newborns

origin 1New 3D probe allows doctors to better treat heart defects in very young children ©AFP

A new miniature heart probe is helping surgeons at a French hospital better treat children with severe heart defects, thanks to high-precision 3D ultrasound scans.

Probe being tested at Toulouse University Hospital allows doctors to see all segments of the heart in real time and determine if the surgery will be successful – or if follow-up will be needed – before they’ve even finished operate on their young patients.

“We’ve been waiting for it for more than 10 years… It’s obviously a very useful tool to repair their hearts,” said Philippe Acar, professor of pediatric and congenital cardiology at Toulouse University Hospital.

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Every year, 1.3 million babies worldwide are born with a life-threatening heart defect, according to Heart to Heart Global Cardiac Care. That is one child every 30 seconds.

While these defects are often highly treatable, it can be challenging for clinicians to operate on these young patients as it can be difficult to accurately assess their heart defect using only two-dimensional ultrasound.

A 3D probe allows doctors to examine the heart up close, but until now it could only be used to examine older and larger patients because “it’s very difficult to miniaturize the crystals that send out ultrasounds,” explains Carolina Bonilla, biomedical engineer at General Electric (GE).

The US company has now designed a miniature 3D probe that can be used in small children and infants weighing more than 5 kg.

The new probe has already helped treat more than 15 children in this French hospital alone.

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Monitoring of the quality of the intervention in real time

The 3D echo notably allows doctors to know if any “residual injuries” need to be repaired immediately.

Dr Khaled Hadeed, who performed open heart surgery on a 10-month-old girl on Nov. 24, said he was pleased to “clearly see the quality of the repair”.

According to GE, this is thanks to real-time 3D imaging that allows surgeons to see all segments of the heart in the same cardiac cycle.

The pediatric cardiology department of the Toulouse university hospital is among the first in the world to use the device.

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However, for now, it cannot afford the tens of thousands of euros needed to acquire this probe.

Currently, the medical device is on loan from GE and is shared with other French and European hospitals.

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