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Clinical Services at Rush Closing Heart Defects
Innovative Devices to Close Heart Defects

A “hole” in the heart occurs when there is a defect in one of the walls separating the chambers of the heart. The heart has four chambers: two upper reservoir chambers and two lower pumping chambers. A wall separates the two upper chambers, called atrial septum and another wall separates the two pumping chambers, called the ventricular septum. Holes in either wall will cause blood to go from the left heart chambers to the right chambers leading to increase blood flow to the lungs. Increase blood flow to the lungs may cause breathing difficulties and eventually heart failure. Cardiologists can deploy special miniature mesh devices during catheterization to close heart defects. The patient’s tissue grows around the device, forming a permanent seal. Some congenital heart defects treated with devices include:

  • Atrial septal defect
  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Patent foramen ovale
  • Ventricular septal defect

Cardiologists at the Center for Congenital and Structural Heart Diseases at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago pioneered many of the procedures used to close such defects without the need for surgery.

Balloon Dilation to Open Narrow Valves and Blood Vessels

Heart valves are doorways that open to allow blood flow in one direction and close to prevent blood from leaking back. Children may be born with valves that do not open all the way, leading to narrow passageways, similarly, children may be born with or develop narrowing of blood vessels, causing obstruction to blood flow. Narrowing of valves or blood vessels can be forced open using special catheters with inflatable balloons at their tip. When the balloon inflates, it forces valves and blood vessels to stretch, thus taking on an opening size that is closer to the normal diameter. Occasionally, blood vessels cannot stay open and a stent, which is a metal cage is used within the blood vessel to keep it open. Conditions treated with balloon dilation include:

  • Aortic valve stenosis
  • Branch pulmonary artery stenosis
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Pulmonary stenosis

Stent Placement to Prop Open Narrowed Vessels

When balloon dilation is not enough, physicians consider stent placement. A stent is a small, mesh-like metal tube that is placed inside a vessel to prevent narrowing. This is done using a balloon catheter. The stent remains in place, propping open the vessel to ensure good blood flow. The following lesions can be treated with stents:

  • Branch pulmonary artery stenosis
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Peripheral pulmonic stenosis

Coil/Device Embolization to Close Blood Vessels

Unnecessary blood vessels or connections between blood vessels can occur in some types of congenital heart defects. Physicians may recommend closure of unwanted vessels that affect normal blood flow. Our pediatric cardiologists use specially designed small metal coils or plugs that are placed inside unwanted vessels. While there, the coil/plug causes a blood clot to form, which then closes the vessel. Over time, tissue grows around the device, forming a permanent seal. Types of defects treated with coil embolization include:

  • Abnormal collateral vessels
  • Coronary artery fistula
  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Pulmonary arteriovenous malformation

Return to the Center for Congenital and Structural Heart Diseases home page.

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