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Project aims to prevent bleeding in babies after needing heart bypass support

Institute News
Monday, July 5, 2021 - 9:02am

A Melbourne-led project aims to investigate new treatments for babies born with heart disease who experience significant bleeding at the end of surgery.  

The project, to be led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in partnership with The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and the University of Melbourne, has been awarded a grant from The National Blood Authority’s National Blood Sector Research and Development Program.

In Australia, about 3000 babies are born with congenital heart disease. The surgery for congenital heart disease almost always involves the use of cardiopulmonary bypass, a type of life support that involves using a machine outside the body to act as the heart and lungs, which has been instrumental in increasing survival rates for children born with severe heart defects.

Project lead Professor Paul Monagle, from the University of Melbourne, MCRI and RCH said unfortunately significant bleeding occurs in more than 10 per cent of all paediatric cardiopulmonary bypass patients with 70 per cent of these patients under two years of age.

“Bleeding can lead to adverse outcomes such as a prolonged stay in the operating theatre, the need for life support and even death,” he said.  

“There are new more specific anti-bleeding therapies available that could transform care, but they can’t be utilised without clear understanding of why these young patients bleed.” 

Professor Monagle said the study would collect blood samples from babies who required surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass for analysis to help understand what causes bleeding in some patients.

“The aim is to provide evidence for the use of new targeted treatments for babies undergoing cardiopulmonary bypass which will lead to less bleeding and better outcomes,” he said.

“This study is a wonderful collaboration between clinical anaesthetics, cardiac surgery, perfusionists, haematology, and our research team, all coming together to address a complex problem in vulnerable babies.”