Health Watch: Help for Young Heart Patients - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Health Watch: Help for Young Heart Patients

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Every year thousands of children suffer severe heart failure and need transplants. Now, a new study shows a device can help young patients while they're waiting for a new heart.

Leanny Rodriguez is an active four year old. But as a baby, heart failure had her fighting for her life. 

"She was getting worse and worse very soon," her mom, Suany explained. "They say she won't make it to wait for a heart transplant because she's getting sicker." 

The wait for a new heart could be months. So, doctors at Texas Children's Hospital gave Leanny a device called the Berlin Heart. 

It pumped blood through her body, keeping her alive until a heart became available. Now a new study shows the device provides a life-saving option for babies and small children with serious heart failure.

"In those patients that were enrolled in the study, more than 90% of them survived to receive a heart transplant or recover," says Dr. Charles Fraser Junior of Texas Children's Hospital. 

Several thousand children develop serious heart failure every year in the U.S. Right now, there aren't many options out there for those waiting for a transplant. 

Researchers say some patients recovered enough that their heart pumped blood on its own after they stopped using the device. But they also caution that some children can suffer serious side effects including major bleeding, infection and stroke.  

Leanny didn't have any problems. She used the Berlin Heart for five months before she finally got a new heart 3 years ago and she's doing great.  

The Food and Drug Administration approved the Berlin Heart for children late last year.

Written by Wendy Damonte

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