Legacy News

A new tool to fight heart defects in infants

August 26, 2019

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The disc-shaped wire mesh device is smaller than a pea and looks something like a mushroom. But don’t be fooled by its appearance or its tongue-tripping moniker:

The Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder is a powerful new tool to treat premature infants with a potentially deadly congenital heart defect at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel.

James Kyser, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist, has performed 10 procedures on medically fragile infants since May. He says he is the first surgeon in Oregon to use the device and feels it’s a far better option than surgery, with a shorter recovery time and less stress on the infant.

“Immediately, we see the babies improve,” he said. “It’s certainly less traumatic than surgery.”

The device was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration early this year. It is used to seal off an abnormal opening in the heart known as patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA.

The opening usually closes on its own at birth. But for a small number of premature infants, it doesn’t close, allowing blood from the heart to flood the lungs, altering breathing, circulation and kidney function. The tiny Piccolo Occluder is used to plug the leak.

“It’s like putting the cork back in the wine bottle,” Kyser said. 

The minimally-invasive procedure is shorter and less complex than surgery and more dependable than other treatment options, which include medication and watchful vigilance in the hope that the leak closes on its own.

Kyser believes the procedure will soon be performed at hospitals throughout Oregon. Word has already begun to spread. Parents in Salem who’d heard about the new device recently reached out for more information. The families of each of the infants he’s treated are grateful.

“The parents,” Kyser said, “have been very thankful.”

James Kyser, M.D.

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