Unprecedented Study Shows Berlin Heart Device Provides Lifesaving “Bridge” For Young Children And Babies

Berlin Heart for pediatric surgeryToday, I’m pleased to announce the results of a long-term Berlin Heart study I led involving 17 of the top pediatric cardiac transplantation centers in North America. We found that the Berlin Heart, a tiny heart pump designed to maintain blood flow in babies and small children with serious heart failure, has proved effective and lifesaving, as detailed in today’s New England Journal of Medicine. This is a huge step forward in the management of heart failure in children.

Texas Children's Hospital Berlin Heart patient Leanny Rodriguez

Here is how it works. The Berlin Heart is not totally implanted inside the body. Physicians insert cannulas, or flexible tubes, in the heart and they extend through the skin and connect to a small pump located outside the body. That pump, along with its computerized drive unit, maintains blood flow. The device improves their circulation and keeps them alive until they receive a heart transplant. In some rare instances, patients recover enough to come off the device and maintain blood flow on their own.

My colleagues and I compared the outcomes for 48 children (infants – 16 years) who received the Berlin Heart (from 2007 – 2010) to patients supported by extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Here’s what we found:

For smaller patients (average age 1 year),

  • a median survival time of 28 days compared to 5 days for children on the ECMO device.
  • the longest time a child was on the Berlin Heart was 174 days compared to 21 days for the ECMO group.
  • at 174 days, 88% of Berlin Heart patients had been successfully transplanted. In the comparison group, 25% had died at 21 days.

For larger body size patients (average age 9),

  • a median survival time of 43 days compared to 5 days for children on the ECMO device.
  • the longest time a child was on the Berlin Heart was 192 days compared to 28 days for the ECMO group.
  • at 192 days, 92% of Berlin Heart patients had been successfully transplanted. In the comparison group, 33% had died at 30 days.

Image of Berlin Heart for childrenThese data undoubtedly proves that the Berlin Heart improves the chances of survival for children of all ages as compared to ECMO support.

The Berlin Heart EXCOR Pediatric Ventricular Device has been used in approximately 1,000 pediatric cases worldwide. Without the assistance of the device, some children awaiting a transplant would become increasingly sick as their heart failed. Now, children on the device can leave the intensive care unit and go to a regular hospital room where they receive rehabilitation and better nutrition while they wait for a transplant.

I am proud that Texas Children’s Heart Center has implanted more Berlin Heart devices in the course of the study than any other center and has one of the most comprehensive pediatric ventricular assist device programs in the world.

Based on the results of this study, we have the ability to save more children with heart failure than ever before.

About Dr. Charles D. Fraser, Jr., Surgeon-in-Chief

I am the surgeon-in-chief, chief of Congenital Heart Surgery, and cardiac surgeon-in-charge at Texas Children’s Hospital.

I came to Texas Children’s Hospital in July of 1995 to establish a dedicated congenital heart surgery program. I've served as the chief of the Congenital Heart Surgery Service since that time.

Posted in Heart, Leadership, Parenting, Research, Surgery, Videos

4 Responses to Unprecedented Study Shows Berlin Heart Device Provides Lifesaving “Bridge” For Young Children And Babies

  1. Maribeth Stone says:

    All of the Surgeons at TCH are AMAZING!!!! Thanks for you you do!!!

  2. Dr. Fraser,

    Words simply can’t express the thanks that our entire family has not only for you, but for your entire team at TCH. You are ALL our heroes! Thanks for always providing Tate with excellent care and for always extending concern, love and follow-up care with the families of your heart patients. Thanks to each one of you, Tate Christian Lewis will celebrate his 10th birthday in just 12 more days!!!

    • Maria Avelar says:

      HI, Nice to hear your son is doing good. I also have a son, his name is Germán and his is 12 yrs and 4 months old, who also has HLHS. He has been doing so good and has never had any complications, thanks to God. He loves to play soccer, and has been doing it since he was 4. He plays competitive soccer. We always thank God for putting wonderful poeple in our lives, specially Surgeon Fraser to help our Son. For your information, we live in Houston, Tx.

  3. Christi says:

    This is such great news!! Dr Fraser is amazing surgeon!!

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