Elisabeth Manville
Apr 13, 2012

Yale doctors successfully perform new child heart defect surgery

Yale doctors have performed a novel surgery on a 4-year-old girl born with a congenital heart defect that was the first of its kind done in the United States. Angela Irizarry is the first American patient to receive a tissue-engineered blood vessel made out of her own natural cells. The surgery on Irizarry was performed in August 2011 and she now shows signs of being able to live a healthy, normal life. Irizarry was born with one functioning ventricle and the second severely underdeveloped due to an often-fatal defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which kills 70 percent infants with the condition in their first year without surgical intervention. In the past, surgeons have used synthetic grafts to extend children’s lives, but because of their synthetic nature they do not always work long-term. The grafts can be susceptible to infections, clotting and rejection, according to Yale pediatric surgeon Christopher Breuer. They also cannot grow with children like their own cells can.