July 3, 2018

On June 30, more than 100 people gathered at Texas Children’s Hospital for the inaugural Celebration for VAD Superheroes. The event, which brought together patients of Texas Children’s VAD Program, allowed the patients and their families to connect with others who share similar experiences. They enjoyed games, visiting with Texas Children’s therapy dog, Bailey, reuniting with their care team, posing for pictures in a photo booth, and more.

“They say it takes a village to care for a child and we are honored to help care for yours,” said Dr. Jeff Dreyer, medical director of heart failure, cardiomyopathy and cardiac transplantation, at the event. “Pediatric VAD therapy is a team sport and I am proud to be a part of this team.”

Some patients awaiting a heart transplant may require mechanical circulatory support with a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD). Texas Children’s offers a variety of circulatory support devices as a bridge to transplantation. Since the inception of Texas Children’s VAD Program in 1985, we have become one of the largest, most comprehensive pediatric VAD programs in the world. Texas Children’s Hospital offers a comprehensive range of both short and long-term mechanical devices for children of all sizes. To learn more visit texaschildrens.org/heart.

Texas Children’s patient, Christiana, shared her experience with event attendees, offered encouragement and explained to other patients that it’s possible to live with a VAD in a safe manner.

“You can still dance and travel. I’ve graduated high school and will be going to college in the fall,” Christiana said. “We have all gone through a tough journey, but we’ve made it. I’m so thankful for the entire VAD team at Texas Children’s and decided at age 12 that I was going to be a heart surgeon. I can’t wait to achieve that dream!”

Dr. Iki Adachi, a congenital heart surgeon at Texas Children’s, said he always feels he can support complex patients like Christiana because he’s supported by an incredible team.

“We have learned so much from each of you and looking forward to other celebrations in the future,” he said.

June 27, 2018

Scientists at Texas Children’s Hospital, Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have won a prestigious National Institutes of Health grant to study the dynamic processes and cellular players linked to discrete subaortic stenosis (DSS), a congenital heart disease.

The $2.2 million, four-year R01 grant administered by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will allow a team led by Dr. Sundeep Keswani and Jane Grande-Allen to develop computer and tissue-engineered models to predict the recurrence of DSS lesions of the left ventricular outflow tract (LVOT).

Keswani is a surgeon and director of surgical research at Texas Children’s and an associate professor in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor. Grande-Allen is Rice’s Isabel C. Cameron Professor of Bioengineering and chair of the university’s Department of Bioengineering.

In normal hearts, blood passes through the tract from the left ventricle to the aorta. In patients with DSS, a fibrous tissue membrane forms and prevents blood flow from leaving the heart. Heart surgery is the only current option to manage the disease, but up to 30 percent of patients have an aggressive form of DSS in which the membrane recurs, and these patients may have to undergo further cardiothoracic surgery. The researchers believe a better understanding of how the fibrous membranes form will help doctors manage the disease.

“We have found some striking differences between patients who have the aggressive form of the disease and those who do not,” Keswani said. “These findings will give insight into the mechanism of how this membrane forms and perhaps why some humans have a more pro-fibrotic phenotype.

“This project is the just the beginning of understanding how different kinds of biomechanical forces interact with cells in the LVOT to produce fibrosis,” he said.

Working with co-investigator Philippe Sucosky of Wright State University, the research team has developed preliminary computational fluid dynamic models that mimic the complex shear forces and the altered geometry of the tract observed in DSS. The models will help the researchers develop a physical bioreactor to investigate interactions between the major cellular players in DSS: the endocardial endothelial cells that are exposed to shear forces, the cardiac fibroblasts that facilitate fibrosis and the circulating immune cells.

“Understanding the mechanisms of how altered shear forces induce fibrosis in the LVOT is a major gap in our knowledge,” Grande-Allen said. “If we can predict recurrence of DSS lesions of this outflow tract, we can change the way the disease is managed and really improve the quality of life for these children.”

Preliminary computer model data suggested that altered internal geometries in children’s hearts generate turbulence in the flow of blood. That affects the shear forces in the LVOT that in turn trigger an inflammatory response by endothelial cells and encourage the formation of fibrous tissue.

In the future, Grande-Allen and Keswani expect their work will help prevent fibrotic lesions by identifying targets in advance. That ability could also help treat other fibrotic cardiovascular diseases associated with altered flow.

Keswani said Texas Children’s, which U.S. News & World Report ranked No. 1 in the nation this week for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery, is uniquely suited to take on the project. “This world-class facility and tremendous volume have driven this project from the bedside to the bench, and this award will hopefully allow us to return to the bedside armed with new tools to help these patients,” he said. “This collaboration is the perfect weave between bioengineering and surgery.”

“Bioengineers bring a unique way of approaching surgical challenges and surgeons bring the surgical insight and the science, resulting in a synergistic relationship,” Keswani said. “In addition, it has been absolutely essential to the success of this project to have the support of our surgical leadership, who are strong advocates for surgical research as a means to develop innovative care for patients.”

Keswani is the principal investigator for Texas Children’s Laboratory for Regenerative Tissue Repair and a pediatric and fetal surgeon. His laboratory investigates the interaction of inflammation and the extracellular matrix that drives fibrosis with the goal of developing anti-fibrotic, regenerative therapies. Grande-Allen’s Integrative Matrix Mechanics Laboratory specializes in studying the composition and behavior of biological tissues, with a particular interest in heart valves.

The project also received support from the Virginia and L.E. Simmons Family Foundation Mini-Collaborative Research Fund and a gift from Lew and Laura Moorman.

June 26, 2018

Texas Children’s Hospital has once again been named as a national leader among pediatric institutions by U.S. News & World Report in their recently published 2018-19 edition of Best Children’s Hospitals.

Ranked fourth among all children’s hospitals nationally and one of only 10 hospitals to achieve the Honor Roll designation for the tenth straight year, Texas Children’s is the only hospital in Texas – and the entire Southern region of the U.S. – awarded this coveted distinction.

“Each year, our Texas Children’s team exhibits incredible strength and kindness, as well as passion, caring for the inspirational children and families we serve,” said Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace. “I believe this is one reason why we continue to maintain the respect and reputation as one of the best hospitals in the nation, and the destination for pediatric care in Texas.”

In addition to ranking children’s hospitals overall, U.S. News & World Report also ranks the top 50 pediatric hospitals in 10 major sub-specialty areas. To be considered for the honor roll distinction, a hospital must have high rankings in at least three sub-specialties. For the second straight year, Texas Children’s Heart Center ranks No. 1 in the nation for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery. Texas Children’s Pulmonology ranks as the best program in the country for children with lung diseases.

Texas Children’s has 8 subspecialties ranked in the top 10, and the hospital improved outcomes across all sub-specialties. There are approximately 190 children’s hospitals in the U.S. and this year, 86 of the 189 surveyed hospitals were ranked among the top 50 in at least one sub-specialty. The 2018-19 Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll recognizes the 10 hospitals with the highest rankings across all sub-specialties. Here are a few highlights of this year’s rankings for Texas Children’s:

  • Cardiology and Congenital Heart Surgery is again no. 1 in the nation and received the top score in externally reported risk-adjusted operative mortality for congenital heart surgery.
  • Pulmonology, which first debuted in the top spot in the 2016 rankings, is now again ranked no. 1 in the nation. We received the top score in several asthma outcomes and structure metrics, such as mean LOS for asthma patients.
  • Neurology and Neurosurgery moved from no. 4 to no. 3, receiving the top score in several outcomes metrics, such as 30-day readmissions for craniotomy and Chiari decompression and complication rate for epilepsy surgical procedures.
  • Nephrology also moved from no. 4 to no. 3, with the top score in one-year kidney transplant graft survival and hemodialysis catheter-associated bloodstream infections.
  • Urology moved from no. 6 to no. 4, propelled by the top score in unplanned hospital admission for urologic issues within 30 days of surgery, as well as significant improvements in hypospadias and revision surgeries.

Texas Children’s, working closely with our academic partner Baylor College of Medicine, continues to pioneer advancements in pediatric health care and earns the U.S. News honor roll distinction by being ranked among America’s best in:

  • #1 Cardiology and Congenital Heart Surgery
  • #1 Pulmonology
  • #3 Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • #3 Nephrology
  • #4 Gastroenterology and GI surgery
  • #4 Urology
  • #6 Cancer
  • #6 Diabetes and Endocrinology
  • #15 Orthopedics
  • #21 Neonatology

This year’s rankings are the results of a methodology that weighs a combination of outcome and care-related measures such as nursing care, advanced technology, credentialing, outcomes, best practices, infection prevention and reputation, among others.

“From a measurement perspective, our survey results demonstrate how hard we’re working as an organization to deliver high quality care to our patients,” Wallace said. “The more consistently we deliver high quality care and the safer we deliver that care to our patients, the better their outcomes are, and the better our overall numbers are.”

Our results continue to reflect the diligent efforts of a solid structure focused on the U.S. News survey. The process of compiling and refining our data is an ongoing challenge, which will continue to improve under the excellent leadership of Trudy Leidich, Elizabeth Pham and the entire USNWR team.

The 2018-19 edition of Best Children’s Hospitals is available online at www.usnews.com/childrenshospitals.

Staff with Texas Children’s Heart Center and Texas Children’s Pulmonology celebrated Tuesday after learning they were ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report in their respective specialties.

Heart Center staff gathered in a conference room on the fourth floor of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women to learn their ranking and cheered in delight when they found out they remained No. 1 in the nation in cardiology and congenital heart surgery.

“The Texas Children’s Heart Center team displays an unparalleled commitment to our patients each and every day through the exemplary care we provide from diagnosis through treatment and follow-up,” said Dr. Daniel Penny, chief of pediatric cardiology. “We are honored to once again be recognized as the best place for children with heart diseases to receive care.”

In a conference room on the 10th floor of Wallace Tower, the Pulmonology team gathered to laud their well-deserved milestone. Pulmonology, which first debuted in the top spot in the 2016 rankings, is now once again ranked No. 1 in the nation.

“At Texas Children’s, we built our program to serve the needs of children with all types of lung disease, from common ailments to the most complex, and we have become the best program for children in need of pulmonary care,” said Dr. Peter Hiatt, chief of pulmonary medicine. “Our relenting commitment to providing life-changing and life-saving treatments to children is what motivates us every day.”

Click here for more information about the Heart Center and here to learn more about our pulmonology program.

May 15, 2018

Almost 130 children, ages 8 to 12 years old, recently attended “Camp Pump It Up,” a camp for patients with cardiac disease and their siblings.

In existence for almost 20 years, the camp has grown allowing more children to experience a weekend away with other children with heart disease. For many the camp is their first time away from home due to medical concerns, which can be managed by the medical team at camp, but would be an issue at other camps without a specialized medical team.

“Having been the physician for many of them, it is very evident how much this weekend means both to the patients but also to their families,” said Dr. Heather Dickerson, camp director and Texas Children’s cardiologist. “What this camp does for these children has kept me coming back and supporting camp for all of these years.”

During the three-day camp, campers experience horseback riding, zip lining, canoeing, fishing and archery, among other activities, for the first time, giving them to the opportunity to forget for a short time about medicines, clinic visits, tests, surgeries and all else that is involved with having a chronic disease. Long-term friendships often are formed they find out they’re not alone and that there are other children with the same issues.

Staff attending the camp were from the following departments:

Cardiology
Cardiac Intensive Care Unit
Congenital Heart Surgery
Child Life
Social Work
Occupational and Physical Therapy
Respiratory Care
Perfusion
Biomedical Engineering
Pediatric Radiology
Residents, patients and friends of Texas Children’s
Baylor College of Medicine staff members

May 1, 2018

Hope Elizabeth Richards, one of the formerly conjoined twin girls separated at Texas Children’s earlier this year, was discharged April 25 after spending 482 days in the hospital. Hope joined her sister, Anna Grace, who was discharged on March 2.

The Richards family is looking forward to returning to their North Texas home soon. They are grateful for all of the support and prayers they received throughout their daughters’ journey.

“This is the moment it all feels real,” said Jill Richards. “We are so excited for Hope to join Anna and her brothers at home. Our family is eternally thankful for the doctors, nurses, child life specialists, physical therapists and many others at Texas Children’s who took incredible care of our precious girls.”

On January 13, Anna and Hope were successfully separated by a multidisciplinary team of nearly 75 surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists and nurses from eight specialties performed the seven-hour procedure. In preparation for separation, on November 6, 2017, Anna and Hope underwent surgery to place tissue expanders in order to allow their skin to grow and stretch.

The girls were born on December 29, 2016 at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, weighing a combined 9 lbs. 12 oz. Delivered via Cesarean-section at 35 weeks and five days gestation, Anna and Hope were conjoined at their chest and abdomen, through the length of their torso and shared the chest wall, pericardial sac (the lining of the heart), diaphragm and liver. In addition, they had a large blood vessel connecting their hearts. They were welcomed by their parents, Jill and Michael, and older brothers Collin and Seth.

The Richards family, learned Jill was carrying conjoined twins during a routine ultrasound. The family was then referred to Texas Children’s Fetal Center, where they underwent extensive prenatal imaging, multidisciplinary consultation and development of plans to achieve a safe delivery and postnatal care. They temporarily relocated to Houston in order to deliver at Texas Children’s and to be close to the girls during their hospital stay. For the past year, Anna and Hope have been cared for by a team of specialists in the level IV and level II neonatal intensive care units (NICU).

April 26, 2018

On April 24, Texas Children’s friends and supporters attended The Forum Luncheon highlighting the amazing work of the Texas Children’s Heart Center, currently ranked No. 1 in the nation for cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report.

Held at The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston, the program highlighted the story of Tenley Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition when her mother, Kelly Kennedy, was 20 weeks pregnant.

Kelly said she’d never give up on her baby girl, and neither did the team at the Heart Center.

Two-year-old Tenley was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. As a result of her disease, Tenley spent most of her life at Texas Children’s Hospital waiting for a heart transplant. On May 13, 2017, her day finally came. Tenley received a heart transplant. The little girl is now at home in Louisiana and thriving.

“Texas Children’s Hospital saved Tenley’s life, and we are forever indebted,” Kelly said.