Local News

New Imaging Technology Helps To Keep Tabs On Young Patients

Posted February 14, 2006 7:30 a.m. EST

— When you think about heart problems, you usually think about adults, but many children are born with life-threatening heart defects. New imaging technology is helping surgeons fix heart problems in some young patients.

Visits to Duke Hospital are more like reunions for the Douglas family. Seven-year-old Megan is a regular MRI patient.

Megan has Marfan Syndrome, a disease of the body's connective tissues, which include the blood vessels. Through normal screening, doctors diagnosed Megan at 5 months of age. They kept a close eye on her aorta, which doctors discovered to be large for her age.

"Actually, she didn't have any symptoms. It never slowed her down or made her tired or anything," said Cathy Douglas, Megan's mother.

However, doctors found Megan's growing aorta was in danger of rupturing. MRI scans also revealed an aneurysm weakened her aortic heart valve. In the past, cardiologists used echocardiograms, CT scans and other tests to monitor the condition, but the latest MRI technologgy is like one-stop shopping.

"It gives us more detailed pictures and extra information that we've never been able to obtain before," said Dr. Rene Herlong, a pediatric cardiologist at Duke.

The images helped Herlong plan Megan's surgery. He replaced a heart valve and removed the enlarged section of her aorta.

New MRI images show everything is working as it should. Marfan Syndrome is an inherited disorder. Megan's sister, who also has been diagnosed with it, had problems with her eyes.