UCSF Pediatric Focus

“Dream Team” to Spur Advances in Pediatric Heart Surgery

Expertise in pediatric heart surgery – particularly for newborns – is hard to find. That makes it all the more remarkable that the Pediatric Heart Center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals has managed to bring on board two of the world’s finest pediatric congenital heart surgeons: V. Mohan Reddy, MD and Shunji Sano, MD, PhD.

Vast Experience in Complex, Delicate Operations

V. Mohan Reddy, MD, is world-renowned for pioneering heart surgeries on premature and extremely low-birth-weight newborns and is one of the few surgeons in the world capable of completing these complex operations. The procedures require surgeons to handle extremely delicate tissue and work with hearts that are approximately the size of a grape. Since 1998, for infants under 1,500 grams (about 3.3 pounds), Reddy has performed more than 40 of these procedures and has had a better than 80 percent survival rate.

“We’ve shown that if these infants are in heart failure, on a ventilator or dependent on drugs to maintain circulation, it’s better to operate as soon as possible after birth because if we wait, there are more complications. Lungs and other systems become damaged,” says Reddy, who is chief of the UCSF Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery and co-director of the Pediatric Heart Center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.

Shunji Sano, MD, PhD, has earned international recognition for his innovative clinical and research contributions to pediatric heart surgery. He has performed over 7,000 congenital heart surgeries with exceptional results, and his active research program is known for:

  • Numerous contributions to the surgical treatment of congenital heart disease, which include the Sano procedure for hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • A total right ventricular exclusion procedure for isolated congestive right ventricular failure
  • Research on cardiac regeneration therapy, using stem cells to treat severe congestive heart failure by generating new heart cells

Expertise Amplified by Team Approach

Both surgeons stress that the challenge of working with infants who have congenital heart disease demands a lot more than a skilled surgeon. It’s critically important to assemble an interdisciplinary team with the expertise to care for these newborns from delivery through preoperative and postoperative care and beyond. At UCSF, the care team includes:

  • Pediatric anesthesiologists
  • Critical care physicians
  • Pediatric cardiologists
  • Expert nurses throughout the perioperative process
  • Respiratory therapists

There are many reasons such team-based expertise is crucial. One of the most important is that infants undergoing surgical intervention for congenital heart disease are at risk for neurodevelopmental abnormalities; finding better ways to protect the brain during congenital heart surgeries is one objective of this group’s clinical research. In addition, postoperative attention to brain development is a strong focus of UCSF’s pioneering Neuro-Intensive Care Nursery.

“As an integrated center, we can innovate and move advances forward more quickly to help more children and families,” says Sano.