We performed 288 heart operations at the New Children’s Hospital last year.
We operate on just under 300 heart patients at the New Children’s Hospital each year; two thirds of these operations are open-heart surgery and one third are closed heart surgery. The number of heart patients from Estonia has been increasing steadily; last year, we operated on 12 of them.
We perform just over one in four of our operations on infants less than one month old. Nearly half of our operations are urgent, meaning that the patient will go into surgery within one month of the diagnosis. Two thirds of our patients are less than one year old.
Some heart problems have to be treated step by step as the child grows. In such cases, we plan the surgical operations in advance. About one third of our cardiac surgery operations are reoperations.
In Finland, three to five children a year receive a heart transplant. Sometimes a child may have to wait on life support for a heart transplant for as long as several months. We have centralized national responsibility for organ transplantations at the New Children’s Hospital.
Centralizing these operations at the New Children’s Hospital guarantees an internationally high level of performance through close cooperation with pediatric cardiology and pediatric intensive care. Our treatment outcomes are on a par with the other Nordic countries.
3D imaging reduces reoperations
Our latest major innovation in pediatric cardiac surgery is 3D imaging of coronary blood vessels in the operating room immediately after corrective surgery.
The typical ultrasound examination performed at the end of a surgical operation illustrates the heart itself and its structures very well and highlights the corrections made, but corrections made to blood vessels outside the heart do not necessarily show up at all.
The 3D imaging that we now perform at the end of a surgical operation has improved our treatment outcomes, reduced the duration of further care and reduced the need for reoperations.
Possibility to retrieve ECMO patients reduces reliance on services outsourced abroad
We have increased our use of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) equipment, which enhances patients’ circulation and breathing. When the need arises, we go to the patient to begin life-saving treatment. For four years now, we have been transporting patients to HUS for further treatment in a specially equipped ambulance.
Patients located more than 250 km from Helsinki can be retrieved by air with the assistance of a Swedish service. Last year, we retrieved eight ECMO patients. Previously, newborn infants with severe acute neonatal respiratory failure had to be transferred to Sweden for further treatment. In addition to the above, we used ECMO equipment to treat 11 other patients suffering from acute circulatory failure.
Spare parts for heart surgery from the Tissue Bank
The Tissue Bank at the New Children’s Hospital is, for the moment, the only hospital tissue bank in Europe capable of producing cell-free homografts, or valve transplants, for heart surgery. These tissues are accrued as a by-product of organ transplantations. Our Tissue Bank principally caters to the Surgery and Anesthesia Unit.
We have been using cryopreserved (frozen) and cellular homografts for decades, particularly in pediatric cardiac surgery, to replace missing or faulty pulmonary valves or to distend a constricted blood vessel. The decellularization process enables the valves to function for a longer time, reducing the need for reoperations. Our Tissue Bank also supplies blood vessels for vascular surgery.
Pediatric cardiac surgery 2010–2020