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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

This Less Invasive Heart Surgery Helps Babies Thrive

Posted By: Advancing Care

Sameh Said MD with Aadhya Mohanraj
Sameh Said, MD, with pediatric cardiothoracic surgery patient Aadhya Mohanraj. This photo was captured just a few days after the procedure. Credit: WMCHealth.

An innovative procedure performed at WMCHealth’s Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is helping infants and children bounce back from cardiac surgery faster than ever. 

In traditional open-heart surgery, doctors make a large incision in the center of a child's chest, cutting through muscle and the breastbone to reach and repair the heart.  

Alternatively, a less-invasive procedure - vertical right axillary thoracotomy - is now performed at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.  This approach needs only a small incision on the child’s right side under the armpit, through which surgeons can access the heart.  

“This procedure is proven to be safe and effective with numerous advantages, when compared to traditional open-heart surgery through the front, also known as median sternotomy,” says Sameh Said, MBBCh, MD Chief of the Section of Pediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiac Surgery at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital and Westchester Medical Center. “The advantages include less need for blood transfusions, shorter hospital stay, less discomfort for the child and quicker recovery to full activity,” he adds. 

Dr. Said, who has performed vertical right axillary thoracotomies on babies as young as two months as well as adults, says children can especially benefit from the procedure. 

“There’s no cutting into the ribs or muscles. And it offers a better cosmetic result because there’s no scar down the middle of the child’s chest, a scar the child would have throughout their lifetime,” he says. 

Remarkable Recovery 

Simone Campbell, who lives in the Bronx, turned to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and Dr. Said to treat her infant daughter Mercedes. 

“About two weeks after her birth, we noticed her breathing just wasn’t right,” says Campbell.  

A trip to the Pediatric Emergency Department at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital led to Mercedes’ admission to the hospital’s Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after tests revealed two holes in her heart (ventricular septal defect).  

Mercedes was treated and monitored for three weeks, then released, with medical follow-ups for several months. “Sometimes the holes in the heart close up on their own,” says Campbell. “But that didn’t happen, so we decided to go with surgery.”  

In November 2022, Dr. Said performed a vertical right axillary thoracotomy on 7-month-old Mercedes.

“My husband and I were nervous,” says Campbell. “But the hospital staff kept us informed throughout the surgery, which helped a lot.” 

She adds: “I was surprised Mercedes recovered so fast. I gave her a bottle as soon as she woke up after the operation. The next day, she was sitting up and playing, and she was discharged just three days later.” 

Back home, two months post-operation, Mercedes is a happy, active baby. “The surgery didn’t slow her down at all,” her mom laughs. “She’s crawling and trying to stand up - things are going great!” 

Mercedes Webster
Mercedes Webster also benefited from the heart procedure. Credit: Simone Campbell.

A Healing Journey

Another couple traveled cross-country to have their baby’s heart surgery performed at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. 

Mohanraj Subramaniam lives in Carver, Minnesota with his wife, Sukanya, and their baby, Aadhya. 

“Aadhya had no apparent health problems at birth. But at about three months, she was breathing a little heavy and losing weight,” Subramaniam says. 

A cardiac evaluation found a hole in Aadhya’s heart. “As parents, we worried about our baby needing surgery. As non-medical people, we weren’t sure what to do. Aadhya is our first child, and we had zero experience with these things,” says Subramaniam. 

After more consultations, traditional open-heart surgery was scheduled for Aadhya in Minnesota.  

In the meantime, her parents came across an article and a parents’ Facebook group mentioning the vertical right axillary thoracotomy procedure. “We were pleased to find that a less-invasive, simpler operation was possible,” says Subramaniam. 

After learning the procedure was performed at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, they contacted Dr. Said, forwarded Aadhya’s medical records, then had a Zoom consultation with him. 

Dr. Said determined that Aadhya was a candidate for the surgery, so her parents booked a flight to New York. 

On November 1, 2022, Dr. Said performed heart surgery on the then six-month-old baby at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital. “In just a few days, she was active and recovering,” says her father. Aadhya and her parents were back home within about a week.  

Three months later, Aadhya continues doing well. “She’s a smiling baby, is curious about everything, and has started crawling around,” Subramaniam says. 

He adds: “We’re so grateful to everyone at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. Because of this heart procedure, our daughter is going to be fine. It’s like a dream come true!” 

A trusted, renowned team of experts offering life-saving cardiac surgical techniques make Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital the Hudson Valley’s choice for advanced pediatric cardiothoracic surgery. For more information or to request an appointment, please call 914.493.8793 or visit MariaFareriChildrens.org/Pediatric-Cardiothoracic-Surgery.