An innovative new diagnostic tool has dramatically improved how heart conditions are diagnosed and managed.
Congenital heart disease (CHD) is not to be confused with coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure. Congenital means that the condition is present at birth, not acquired. We often think of heart conditions as things that happen later in life, but thousands of babies are born with congenital heart defects every year.
Fortunately, new innovations are changing the CHD diagnosis and treatment landscape.
A disease that doesn’t discriminate
Executive Director, Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance (CCHA)
“About 1 in 100 babies are born with a heart defect, sometimes also referred to as structural heart or blood vessel defects,” says Allan Weatherall, Executive Director of the Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance (CCHA). “Some are born with small abnormalities that can repair themselves without surgical intervention, while others have huge challenges that require immediate surgeries.”
Parents are understandably overwhelmed to learn that their child is included in the one percent, and a CHD diagnosis has a huge impact on entire families. The CCHA focuses on supporting these families and empowering patients with education.
“Our mission is advocating for and enriching the lives of people with CHD through awareness, education, research, and support,” says Weatherall. “We’re the only national organization that supports people of all ages from coast to coast with CHD. We’re made up entirely of volunteers and we depend on donations to support our work.”
Weatherall notes that the future for babies born with CHD is much brighter than it used to be. “Years ago, only about 20 percent of people born with CHD reached adulthood, but now, thanks to advancements in technology like what Ventripoint Diagnostics has been doing, it’s about 95 percent,” he says.
A new and better diagnostic tool
Dr. George Adams
CEO, Ventripoint Diagnostics
Ventripoint Diagnostics was created to improve cardiac diagnostics. The traditional echocardiogram used to provide medical imaging of the heart is a limited tool rife with challenges. “It’s very difficult to get clear images of the right heart using echocardiography,” says Dr. George Adams, CEO of Ventripoint Diagnostics. “The alternative is an MRI, but that means putting a child or infant in an MRI machine for up to two hours, which requires anesthetizing them and putting them on a ventilator. That’s quite a traumatic experience.”
Ventripoint Diagnostics’ VMS+ tool was borne out of need. Doctors needed a better way to monitor the heart state and make confident diagnoses. Furthermore, many patients suffering from CHD are monitored throughout their lives, thus requiring numerous scans.
Many with CHD have complex anatomy that can be difficult to see with some technologies. Using innovative technology and a unique AI approach, the VMS+ can decipher technically-challenging echocardiogram images, turning them into precise, accurate, 3D visualizations. “It gives you exactly the same information as an MRI but from standard two-dimensional ultrasound scanning,” says Dr. Adams. “With hospitals having much longer waiting lists for expensive MRI technology this solution is faster, more accessible, and less traumatic for patients and parents.”
This innovation has been especially helpful in diagnosing children born with CHD, although it can help with diagnosing and monitoring all types of heart conditions. And fortunately for patients and doctors, this technology is now available in major hospitals across Canada, including University Health Network Peter Munk Cardiac Center, St. Michael’s Hospital, Stollery Children’s Hospital, and more.