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Madison, Matt, Hope and Brooke Seymour

We may think of heart problems only in terms of aging. Yet national statistics show that congenital heart defects are the most common type of major birth defect, affecting tens of thousands of babies born each year and representing the most common cause of infant death due to birth defects.

However, diagnosis and treatment are improving. At SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, more than 99 percent of children treated for a congenital heart defect in 2011 survived.

“Cardinal Glennon has really focused on a team approach to heart care,” said Dr. Charles Huddleston, cardiothoracic surgeon at SSM Cardinal Glennon and professor at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. “From the time the diagnosis is made to surgery to the recovery period in the intensive care unit, the team of doctors and nurses from many areas of the hospital works together very closely to monitor the patient and provide the highest level of care through every step of the process.”

Because there are many types of congenital heart defects, in which the heart walls, valves or vasculature develop abnormally, treatment varies significantly. Some defects require only periodic monitoring or medication while others necessitate complex, delicate heart surgery or transplants in the tiniest patients.

Through advanced diagnostic techniques, heart experts are able to help children much earlier than ever before. Many congenital heart problems can be detected while the baby is still in the womb, through technology such as fetal echocardiograms. If a problem is detected, the Glennon cardiology team works closely with the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute to determine a plan of care and prepare for the baby’s birth. In the most serious cases, the obstetrician, interventional cardiologist, maternal-fetal care physician and cardiothoracic surgeon all are available at the time of delivery to provide immediate intervention on the newborn baby.

SSM Cardinal Glennon’s Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery program introduced the region’s first pediatric hybrid cardiac catheterization suite in 2011. This state-of-the-art concept allows the interventional cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon to work together to diagnose a child’s heart problem and treat it in a combined procedure, in the same space. This helps promote faster recovery and safer care for children.

Throughout the diagnostic and treatment process, a multidisciplinary team provides collaborative care management, allowing post-surgical patients to begin recovery in the pediatric intensive care unit, which is the only one in St. Louis staffed by a board-certified intensive care specialist 24 hours a day.

In January 2013, SSM Cardinal Glennon will debut its new Imaging Center, which will provide the lowest radiation dose available for pediatric imaging in St. Louis. New MRI equipment is on the cutting edge for pediatric and adult heart imaging, and a new 128-slice CT scanner will provide significantly enhanced imaging capabilities, while providing safe imaging through dose reduction software.

Parents of SSM Cardinal Glennon heart patients also note that advanced technologies and techniques are paired with a compassionate approach, easing fears and engendering hope. Brooke Seymour, whose infant daughter required two open-heart surgeries before she was 18 months old, recounts the care provided by Dr. Saadeh Al-Jureidini, director of cardiac catheteri-zation and intervention:

“Dr. Al-Jureidini took his time to explain the procedure and he could sense our worry. He gently lifted our daughter from my arms and said, She’s my baby now, and softly kissed her head. He carried her off himself behind the closed doors to the cath lab,” Seymour recalls. “I can’t tell you how reassuring and uplifting this was for me as a parent. For a brief second, the weight of the world was off our shoulders, simply by this act of compassion and genuine love for his patients.”

Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center uses a team approach to heart care, and introduced the region’s first pediatric hybrid cardiac catheterization suite in 2011. Pictured on the cover: Dr. Andrew Fiore and Dr. Charles Huddleston. For more information, visit

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