Norton Children’s Hospital establishes heart center

Only hospital to offer comprehensive children’s heart care services in Kentucky.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Feb. 11, 2016) – Norton Children’s Hospital has established a heart center to address any and all heart conditions in children from across Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

The Norton Children’s Hospital Heart Center provides comprehensive family-oriented services for patients of all ages born with heart defects (congenital heart disease) and for children with acquired heart conditions. Services include transthoracic, transesophageal and 3-D echocardiography; on-site and remote fetal cardiology consultations for prenatal diagnosis of congenital heart disease; an extensive telemedicine program for remote diagnosis of heart defects in children across Kentucky and Southern Indiana; a program for open-heart and hybrid surgery; electrophysiology services to treat patients with heart rhythm disturbances; pediatric cardiac catheterization services for specialized diagnostic and interventional procedures; an advanced heart failure program that includes mechanical heart pumps (ventricular assist devices) and cardiac transplantation; and an adult congenital heart disease program.

Approximately eight out of every 1,000 children are born with congenital heart disease, which translates to about 450 children each year in Kentucky alone. About one-quarter of these children have what is considered critical heart disease that will require either catheter-based or surgical intervention within the first year of life. These defects may involve the heart valves, cardiac chambers, blood vessels in or around the heart and lungs, the heart muscle itself or cardiac rhythm. Any of these may be quite serious if not properly addressed by a pediatric heart specialist.

“Whether a child is born with heart disease due to genetic causes or acquires a heart condition due to infection or injury, many will require highly specialized expertise and services, all of which are provided in our heart center,” said Christopher L. Johnsrude, M.D., chief of pediatric cardiology services at Norton Children’s Hospital and co-director of the new heart center. He also is a pediatric cardiologist with University of Louisville Physicians.

The Norton Children’s Hospital Heart Center is also led by Frank A. Pigula, M.D., chief of pediatric cardiovascular surgery. Dr. Pigula recently joined the leadership team of the Norton Children’s Heart Center from Boston Children’s Hospital, which is considered one of the top-rated pediatric cardiovascular surgery hospitals in the country.

“Treating children’s heart issues is incredibly complex and requires an entire team of specialists,” said Dr. Pigula, who is also with U of L Physicians. “The Norton Children’s Hospital Heart Center is set up to provide care for a wide variety of heart issues, whether it’s medical observation all the way through advanced surgery and heart transplantation.”

Norton Children’s Hospital, working with specialists from U of L Physicians, is home to the only pediatric heart failure and transplant program in the commonwealth of Kentucky.

Each year, specialists at the hospital currently perform more than 400 heart surgeries, 400 catheter-based procedures and 7,200 echocardiograms, which include 400 fetal echocardiograms. Children and families are also served by 15 outreach clinics and 28 tele-echography sites throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana that are managed by pediatric specialists affiliated with Norton Children’s Hospital. More than 3,000 echocardiograms are sent from those tele-echography sites for interpretation at the hospital each year.

With an increased number of children coming to Norton Children’s Hospital for heart care, plans are in place for the heart center to expand to include a cardiac intensive care unit for children recovering from heart surgery and transplant, as well as adult congenital heart disease patients needing care.

“Norton Children’s Hospital is dedicated to providing children with complex care for heart issues so they do not need to leave Kentucky,” said Thomas D. Kmetz, division president, Women’s and Children’s Services and Norton Children’s Hospital. “With the new heart center and Dr. Pigula’s and Dr. Johnsrude’s leadership, we expect to see the care we can provide to children with heart issues continue to expand.”