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New Paediatric Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory: cutting edge medicine for the smallest patients

(Vienna, 29th April 2011) MedUni Vienna Vice-Chancellor Wolfgang Schütz, Vienna General Hospital Director Reinhard Krepler, Arnold Pollak, Head of the University Department for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine and Ina Michel-Behnke showcased on Friday 29th April 2011 the high-tech facilities for children’s hearts at the University Department for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine of MedUni Vienna. Each year hundreds of children with heart defects shall benefit from the new Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory at the Paediatric Department. The high-tech facility is specially tailored to small patients and an outstanding feature is the highest imaging quality with minimal exposure to radiation.

Heart defects are the most frequent of congenital malformations and are far from rare: Eight to ten out of 1,000 children are born with a heart defect. This most frequently concerns dangerous ventricular septal wall defects, which are often also colloquially known as a “hole in the heart”. Predominantly due to various innovations in medical technology around 90 percent of all people born with a congenital heart defect in developed industrialised countries now reach adulthood. In addition to surgical treatment, many heart defects can today be treated with protective and minimally-invasive procedures, for example with a cardiac catheterisation intervention.

“The new Paediatric Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory makes it clear that patients are the focus of our efforts. It brings significant improvements for children with often serious heart defects. The very good cooperation between Vienna General Hospital and MedUni Vienna has enabled this important step to be made and is to the benefit of the children and their parents”, remarks Sonja Wehsely, the town councillor for health.

Examples of when cardiac catheterisation interventions may be used can be amongst others the closure of a defect (hole) between the small and large heart chambers by means of implants (so-called umbrella technique), the widening of heart valves or of constricted blood vessels by means of balloon dilation and the insertion of vessel supports (so-called stents). Even heart valves can be implanted by means of catheterisation technology. In children all that remains to be seen following the procedure is a small incision, three millimetres in length, in the inguinal region.
“This facility represents a step into a new dimension in the realm of paediatric medicine”, explains the Medical Director of the Vienna General Hospital, Reinhard Krepler.

The fact that such procedures can be carried out at the Vienna Paediatric Heart Centre, is not only due to technology, but predominantly to the doctors who work here, as Wolfgang Schütz, Vice-Chancellor of the MedUni Vienna explains, “Three years ago we were able to bring a top international doctor in, Ina Michel-Behnke, to Vienna as the Head of Paediatric Cardiology. Coming from Germany she brought with her extensive expertise in interventional cardiac catheterisation and introduced numerous innovations here in Vienna. Through the intensive cooperation with other departments, in particular with the Heart Surgery Department, we today possess an excellent team of experts in the treatment of children with heart defects, even when compared internationally.”

The highest standard of medical care at the Vienna University Department for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine
For a short time now the University Department for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine of the Medical University of Vienna has possessed a new Paediatric Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory with an ultra modern, so-called card angiography system, which exposes patients to particularly low doses of radiation but nevertheless delivers excellent imaging quality. As a result the new facility is optimally suited for the protective examination of even the smallest patients with cardiac and vascular diseases. With the new device, 3D reconstructions of vessels and rotational angiographies are also possible. Unlike the usual examination methods, the rotational angiography does not provide a two-dimensional image but rather a short video clip, which shows the examined heart from all sides and in doing so significantly alleviates diagnosis and treatment. Furthermore the new facility possesses analysis software for congenital heart defects.

The treatment of young patients poses particular demands on the Paediatric Cardiology Department. The interventional Paediatric Cardiology Department has also been developed through its previous knowledge acquired from adults. However, children additionally have particular requirements. These include above all intensive care monitoring, the examination whilst in deep sleep without mechanical ventilation (so-called Minimal Handling) and the maximal limitation of exposure through X-rays.

250 cardiac catheterisation examinations per year which often save lives
Approximately 250 children are examined by means of cardiac catheterisation at the Vienna Paediatric Heart Centre each year. Diagnostic cardiac catheterisation examinations are performed in particular in the context of preparation for complex heart operations. Of these examinations, 70 percent are therapeutic in nature, i.e. they are performed for the treatment of a heart defect. In the age group of up to one year, which includes 30 percent of small patients, many newborns have critical heart defects. In these cases a cardiac catheterisation intervention represents life-saving treatment.

The Vienna Paediatric Heart Centre is part of the University Department for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine lead by Arnold Pollak and cooperates closely with the Department for Heart Surgery. A significant part of the Vienna Paediatric Heart Centre is the Department for Paediatric Cardiology, which is lead by Ina Michel-Behnke. The Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory for Children is also located here.

100 years of the Vienna Paediatric Department with a celebratory symposium and international convention
In 2011 the University Department for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine of the MedUni Vienna is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The history of Viennese Paediatrics has since been inseparably connected with that of the University Department for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine. Following a heyday of Viennese Paediatric Medicine at the start of the 20th century, the period of the Nazi regime brought about a low point. Viennese Paediatrics could only recover gradually in the subsequent years. Today the department is once again amongst the world leaders owing to its set of priorities.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the University Department for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a celebratory symposium is taking place on 13th May at the Hofburg palace in Vienna. During this not only shall plans and visions for the future be set out, but there shall also be a presentation of the recent advances. Following this, the international convention “Prevention of Congenital Diseases - Screening Newborns: Current State and Future Challenges” shall take place at the Hofburg palace. Finally on 14th and 15th May 2011 a post convention symposium on the history of paediatric medicine shall be held at the Viennese Institute of the History of Medicine.