Number of congenital heart defects in MS alarming to doctors - - Jackson, MS

Number of congenital heart defects in MS alarming to doctors

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Pediatric congenital heart cases are part of the daily routine at Batson Children's Hospital. A statistic, the surgeons don't like. In a recent surgery, an 11 year old girl's heart is literally in the hands of surgeons, and so is her life.

It's a professional and personal passion for Dr. Jorge Salazar, who doesn't want to see any more Mississippi children die from heart defects. Dr. Salazar is chief of pediatric and congenital heart surgery at Batson Children's Hospital. "The truth is, before a couple of years ago, all of those babies would die. Or the lucky ones would make it out of state for care. But most of those children never made it to care," Dr. Salazar said. 

The unidentified girl in the surgery is one of those lucky ones. Dr. Salazar removed the mechanical mitral valve she received as an infant, somewhere else.

The Batson Heart Surgical Unit was re-established in 2010, and what Dr. Salazar has seen since then, has been what he calls "staggering."

"It's an overwhelming amount of congenital heart disease. We're seeing one out of more than every hundred children born with a heart defect."

And not only that, it's the complexity of the cases in Mississippi that Dr. Salazar says he never expected. "Things that are supposed to be very, very rare, we see once a week here. We aren't seeing things we've never seen before, but we've seen combinations of heart defects that we've never seen before. They're not supposed to co-exist."

All of this is based on clinical observation, but it's very educated clinical observation among some of the best heart surgeons in the world. "For whatever reason, we are seeing almost double what I would expect to see, based on our experiences elsewhere. We are already seeing in preliminary review, there is something going on," Dr. Salazar said. 

So exactly what is going on with young congenital heart patients like this one? It's a medical mystery at this point that Dr. Salazar says must be solved. "We're partnering now with the public health department and ultimately with Medicaid to get some really hard numbers about that, so we can compare to the national incidence and prevalence of congenital heart disease to prove what our observation is."

Dr. Salazar says socio-economic factors have already been ruled out in the prevalence of congenital heart disease in Mississippi. But he is hopeful they will determine the cause or causes, sooner rather than later.

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