Building a Home for Children with Heart failure

21/02/2024 International Affairs Office

“Thank you!” Chen Chen said with a long-lost smile when he took the flowers and blessing cards sent by a Dubai medical delegation seeking for international cooperation with the Children’s Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine (ZCH),on the morning of January 18, 2024.


Chen Chen is a 14-year-old boy from Fujian Province who was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy a year ago. He went to a local hospital with edema and nausea, after which he was referred to the Department of Heart Failure and Mechanical Circulatory Support of ZCH. There, he received a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Chen Chen became the fourth patient to receive a successful artificial heart implantation at ZCH.


Heart failure is a severe cardiovascular disease, especially in children with end-stage heart failure, who are basically unable to engage in any physical activity. The death rate within five years is as high as 80%. An estimated 40,000 children are hospitalized annually in China due to heart failure, which is a significant public health problem.


On December 22, 2023, ZCH established a pioneering heart failure/mechanical assisted circulation department on the Binjiang Campus. This marks the first pediatric heart failure ward in China, which is a significant step in treating heart failure with advanced technologies such as artificial heart implantation and heart transplant.


"We hope that children with heart failure can have their own homes through our efforts. As long as they come here, they can find hope, not only to extend their lives but also to get out of wheelchairs and hospital beds and live a high quality of life. At the same time, we also want to create a benchmark for treating pediatric heart failure to benefit more children," said Professor SHU Qiang, a pioneer in pediatric cardiac surgery.


FU Junfen, President of the Children's Hospital, said, "The opening of the heart failure/mechanically assisted circulation department is an important milestone in developing the cardiovascular subspecialty. We aim to build a full-cycle, full-chain diagnosis and treatment system and a long-term dynamic follow-up mechanism at a high level. ZCH can provide new solutions and hope for children with heart failure in Zhejiang Province, the whole of China, Asia, and the world."


Doctor Lin Ru, Director of the Heart Failure/Mechanically Assisted Circulation Department, said, "Our ward is specifically for children with heart failure. We have established a complete remote management system, long-term monitoring, and follow-up of patients' dynamic data after surgery. We also have high standards in infection prevention mechanisms and postoperative maintenance care. Patients can get thoughtful and full service before and after surgery to reduce complications."


Pediatric heart transplant technology is quite challenging. ZCH is one of several children's hospitals with heart organ transplantation qualifications in China. Xiaotian became the "first case" in the history of heart transplant at ZCH. Xiaotian found a compatible heart donor on June 14, 2023 and underwent successful heart transplant surgery that same day, led by Professor SHU Qiang, an esteemed expert in pediatric surgery.


In February 2023, the respective team performed a complex surgical procedure to implant a LVAD in a 12-year-old boy who was suffering from end-stage heart failure. This marked the first time such an operation had been performed in a children's hospital within China, and it set records for the youngest patient and lowest weight for an artificial heart implantation within the country.


ZCH is dedicated to providing hope to children in the end-stage of heart failure through the use of two cutting-edge technologies - pediatric heart transplants and artificial heart implantation. The heart failure/mechanical assisted circulation department of ZCH is specifically designed to cater to children with heart failure, providing them a home of care and treatment.