Heart conditions

A former GOSH patient on a tennis court

Right now, doctors can’t be sure how a child with a heart condition will respond to current treatments.

What if they could accurately predict how a treatment will work before it’s even begun? 

“They reckon my heart had stopped beating for around 13 minutes,” says James.

James is one of the lucky patients to have benefited from the latest heart treatment at GOSH. Until recently invasive heart surgery was the only option, sadly 3 out of 10 children died waiting for a heart transplant. But now GOSH is developing new ways to support the heart with devices or stem cell treatments to boost the heart’s own recovery.

The situation today

Every year, GOSH carries out open-heart surgery for more than 700 patients and sees more than 5,000 children with serious heart conditions. Most children with heart failure don’t survive without a transplant, and nearly a third will die waiting for a donor. To give more children a better chance, we must help find new ways to help their hearts recover. The hospital has built up one of the largest cardiac imaging departments in the world to drive progress.

In 2008, James had a heart attack while playing tennis. He was diagnosed with a condition which affects the heart’s electrical activity, and was fitted with a device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) at GOSH to monitor his heart. A year later, James started to feel ill and he returned to GOSH with endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart.

Living on the high-dependency ward, James had his ICD removed and was treated with antibiotics. After five weeks in hospital, he became the first patient to be fitted with a new type of ICD, a subcutaneous defibrillator.

The great advantage of the subcutaneous defibrillator is that there are no leads actually placed into the heart. Their removal or replacement is much simpler, reducing the risk of infection.

How we’ll help shape the future

Our researchers will develop personalised diagnoses, treatments and prognoses to a level of accuracy that’s never before been possible. They’ll use refined imaging, computer technology and medical and genetic data to not only investigate the shape of each child’s heart, but to predict the ‘journey’ of their condition.

We’ll also invest in designing state-of-the-art heart devices and finding new ways to support failing hearts. The hospital will monitor patients’ progress into the future, to determine which treatments are most effective and give children the best quality of life.

This will mean that children with heart failure such as James can be supported for longer at home, and may even be able to return to a fully active life.

“I still visit the hospital for regular check-ups,” James says, “but I’m now back playing tennis. I won the boys’ doubles and mixed doubles at the county tournament last summer.”