Texas Children's Fetal Center celebrates American Heart Month


As one of the top four fetal cardiology programs in the country, center's multidisciplinary effort to save babies' hearts before birth brings families hope

HOUSTON - (Feb. 28, 2013) -The team at Texas Children's Fetal Center, one of the nation's leading centers for treating fetal anomalies, celebrates American Heart Month with an awareness campaign that encourages obstetricians and families to consider the need for specialized care when selecting a center to address congenital heart issues.

Every parent's goal is to have the healthiest baby possible, but for babies who develop heart complications in-utero, prenatal diagnosis can drastically impact the course of care, and can ultimately help improve the child's life. Unfortunately, only 25 to 33 percent of congenital heart defects are discovered during pregnancy, underscoring the importance of prenatal care and finding a center that specializes in high-risk births.

"Many families don't realize that where they get diagnosed sets the course of their child's care and will likely determine where they receive treatment and surgery later in life," says Dr. Nancy Ayres, director of non-invasive imaging and fetal cardiology at Texas Children's Hospital. "We offer comprehensive cardiac care with experienced cardiologists who provide coordinated care from fetus in-utero through adulthood."

Prenatal diagnosis can significantly improve the outcome for babies with cardiac conditions. Patients who seek treatment at Texas Children's Fetal Center are cared for by a multidisciplinary team of experts, in collaboration with Texas Children's Heart Center, which is consistently ranked as one of the top three pediatric heart centers in the country. The successful collaboration between the Fetal and Heart Centers to create the Fetal Cardiology Program has provided new hope for children with congenital heart issues.

Texas Children's prides itself on housing world-renowned experts across all fields of fetal and maternal medicine under one roof in Houston. This allows patients to be seamlessly transferred between centers, leading to a more familiar doctor-patient relationship and provides the patient a broader spectrum of medical expertise.

"It is extremely important for these patients to receive streamlined care from an experienced center with a high volume of patients," explains Dr. Carolyn Altman, pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children's Heart Center. "We have a multidisciplinary team that excels at working together and collaborating on each case from before birth into adulthood. It makes me proud to say that we have the entire package - and patients benefit from our teamwork."

The Fetal Cardiology Program provides not only expert fetal cardiac care by a highly experience multidisciplinary team, but also supports families during a difficult time as they wait to see how their unborn baby's heart develops through close monitoring, fetal imaging and diagnosis, as well as counseling. For parents, receiving counseling on their fetus' cardiac defect and discussing the anticipated clinical course and potential surgery is very important.

"Thanks to our collaboration with the Fetal Center, more heart patients are receiving diagnoses and even intervention in-utero. In turn, we're seeing healthier babies at birth, and better outcomes for some of these critically ill babies," explains Dr. Henri Justino, medical director of interventional cardiology at Texas Children's Hospital.

Last year, Texas Children's Fetal Center became the first center in the Southwest to create a fetal intervention program for hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a congenital heart defect that is extremely difficult to treat. "Texas Children's Fetal Center is one of only a few centers in the world capable of performing this complex fetal intervention which involves a coordinated effort among a large, multi-disciplinary team of fetal cardiologists, maternal fetal medicine Ob/Gyns, surgeons, fetal imaging experts, anesthesiologists and other clinical specialists", said Dr. Michael Belfort, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine, and Obstetrician and Gynecologist-in-Chief at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women.

Texas Children's Heart Center has been a leader in pediatric cardiac care since its inception more than 50 years ago. This monumental beginning led Texas Children's Heart Center to many more firsts in research, clinical trials and treatments, as well as top rankings year after year. Texas Children's Heart Center reports outcomes that are among the best in the nation.

About Texas Children’s Hospital

Texas Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit health care organization, is committed to creating a healthier future for children and women throughout the global community by leading in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked as the best children’s hospital in Texas, and among the top in the nation, Texas Children’s has garnered widespread recognition for its expertise and breakthroughs in pediatric and women’s health. The hospital includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; the Feigin Center for pediatric research; Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston; and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, a second community hospital planned to open in 2017. The organization also created the nation’s first HMO for children, has the largest pediatric primary care network in the country and a global health program that’s channeling care to children and women all over the world. Texas Children’s Hospital is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. For more information, go to www.texaschildrens.org. Get the latest news by visiting the online newsroom and Twitter at twitter.com/texaschildrens.