Carolinas HealthCare System Physicians Help Children Born with Congenital Heart Disease
Not all children have access to the high quality medical care offered in America. In fact, pediatric critical care resources are scarce in developing countries and children are suffering and dying from illnesses that are routinely treated in the United States.
In order to help save the lives of children born with congenital heart disease, Benjamin Peeler, MD, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon and head of congenital heart surgery at Levine Children's Hospital and Dr. Kshitij Mistry, MD, director of the pediatric cardiovascular intensive care unit, traveled to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic with the World Pediatric Project to provide surgical and intensive care services to these patients.
The two, along with other cardiologists from various hospitals, worked with the local team at the Cedimat Hospital in Santa Domingo to assess the patient population and determine which surgeries need to be performed that week.
"In these developing countries, we see patients with advanced disease states that we do not usually see in the United States, and the experience has significantly increased my knowledge of the pathology of this disease," said Dr. Peeler. "I participate in this trip because I want to help the team in Santa Domingo decrease the number of children with congenital heart disease by helping them perform the surgeries that will cure their patients."
The teams not only collaborate to make critical and lifesaving decisions, but work together to develop a program for the hospital to identify and treat patients earlier.
One in 12 children in the Dominican Republic is born with a congenital heart disease, yet there are limited resources to identify those children when they are born. Through the World Pediatric Project, surgeons and physicians are performing what are routine procedures in the United States, but ultimately save the lives of many patients and provide a huge resource to the area.
"Taking care of the patients is a huge priority for our team, but another mission is to offer guidance and help the physicians and staff at Cedimat Hospital develop and grow a self-sustaining congenital heart disease program," said Dr. Mistry. "It is great to see the collaboration among our teams that will ultimately create a care delivery system that is truly a great need."
"I get back just as much as I give when I perform surgeries on the patients. The experience helps me better understand the children I work with every day, and makes me truly thankful for the advanced care we can offer our patients and their families," added Dr. Peeler.
This trip is just another example of the voluntary efforts at Carolinas HealthCare System. Since its establishment nearly 70 years ago, the International Medical Outreach Program has pursued a variety of local and international research and humanitarian projects focused primarily on providing medical assistance and education. Located on the campus of Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, the Program is a partnership between CHS and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte. Program leaders work closely with CHS' Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute to provide medical training focused on cardiac care to health providers overseas, as well as medical equipment and supplies to impoverished countries.
Carolinas HealthCare System has placed a tremendous focus on developing a congenital heart disease program and is actively recruiting a team of cardiovascular specialists to expand that the services currently offered at Levine Children's Hospital and the Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute. Surgeons performed more than 300 congenital heart surgeries in 2011, with survival rates that exceed national averages. It is anticipated that surgical volume could grow between 25 and 50 percent within the next five years.
Carolinas HealthCare System is the only hospital system in the region that provides pediatric open-heart surgery, pediatric catheterization lab, heart transplant and heart assistance devices and heart-lung bypass to support preemies and children with respiratory failure. Levine Children's Hospital houses the first and only Pediatric Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU).