McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Peter Wearden, MD, PhD (pictured), assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon and director of pediatric mechanical cardiopulmonary support at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, is a renowned member of Children’s Hospital Heart Center Team. Children’s Hospital is an acknowledged world leader in pediatric heart transplantation. The Heart Center Team fields requests for admission from around the country - and the world.
For some of Children’s patients, heart transplantation may not be necessary. The Heart Center Team agrees the first goal is to do whatever you can with the patient’s old heart, either surgically or medically. Today, the use of ventricular assist devices (VADs) serves as a bridge to recovery instead, eliminating the long-term risks of possible rejection and failure of a donor heart.
"If you break a leg or arm, you rest it. But the heart and lungs can't rest," explains Dr. Wearden. "So if we have devices that can allow them to rest, they may have a chance to recover."
In support of this goal, Dr. Wearden leads physicians, engineers, and clinicians in a collaborative effort on the development of two tiny technologies - one internal, one external - that will advance the science of pediatric VADs.
A number of the devices have been approved for adults. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved any for use in infants and toddlers. Until one is developed, Children's relies on case-by-case permission to implant a device developed overseas--The Berlin Heart Excor.
A scientific consortium led by Dr. Wearden, and including device manufacturer Levitronix LLC, received a $2.3 million National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to complete development of, and to clinically test, the first external centrifugal pump designed specifically for infants and small children in heart failure. Dr. Wearden hopes to begin clinical trials of the device, dubbed PediaVAS, this year.
Research continues on the development of a totally implantable pediatric VAD. That effort with partners including Carnegie Mellon University and the McGowan Institute has also received NIH funding. It will develop a magnetically powered device the size of a AA battery dubbed PediaFlow, which could support a child for as long as 6 months.
As reported in Pittsburgh Magazine, since performing the first pediatric heart transplant in 1982, Children's Hospital has completed more than 250 transplants. Eighty-five percent to 90 percent of its young patients survive at least 3 years following surgery, a rate significantly higher than the 80 percent national average.
Photograph: Dr. Peter Wearden holds two implantable heart pumps. At top is a prototype called the PediaFLOW, which is a compact version of the bottom pump. The pump on the right is an external pump called the PediaVAS, which Dr. Wearden hopes will replace a rolling cart-style pump used in hospitals. J.C. Schisler/Tribune-Review.
Pittsburgh Magazine.com (05/2009)
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC – The Heart Center
Spotlight Series: Emerging Technology--Miniaturized Heart Pumps for Children
Funding Boost Received for Pediatric VAD Research
Bio: Dr. Peter Wearden