Surgeon explains Kimmel baby’s heart defect

Client: Ann  & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Source: Chicago Tribune

“What is tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia? And what’s the outlook for babies diagnosed with it?

In the wake of Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional announcement that his newborn son, Billy, was born with the heart defect and underwent surgery, many of us have questions.

Babies with Billy’s heart defect have essentially no pulmonary valve to move blood from the heart to the lungs, according to Dr. Carl L. Backer, the chief of cardiac surgery at Lurie Children’s Hospital. As a result, the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen in his or her blood. In tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia, there’s also a hole between the right and left pumping chambers of the heart.

Surgeons can close the hole and create a valve, but long-term outcomes vary, in large part because some patients also have undersized distal pulmonary arteries. If the arteries that branch out through the lungs are of normal or near-normal size, outcomes are better. If these arteries are too small, outcomes tend to be worse.”

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