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Following stage 1 palliation, delayed sternal closure may be used as a technique to enhance thoracic compliance but may also prolong the length of stay and increase the risk of infection.
We reviewed all neonates undergoing stage 1 palliation at our institution between 2010 and 2017 to describe the effects of delayed sternal closure.
During the study period, 193 patients underwent stage 1 palliation, of whom 12 died before an attempt at sternal closure. Among the 25 patients who underwent primary sternal closure, 4 (16%) had sternal reopening within 24 hours. Among the 156 infants who underwent delayed sternal closure at 4 [3,6] days post-operatively, 11 (7.1%) had one or more failed attempts at sternal closure. Patients undergoing primary sternal closure had a shorter duration of mechanical ventilation and intensive care unit length of stay. Patients who failed delayed sternal closure had a longer aortic cross-clamp time (123±42 versus 99±35 minutes, p=0.029) and circulatory arrest time (39±28 versus 19±17 minutes, p=0.0009) than those who did not fail. Failure of delayed sternal closure was also closely associated with Technical Performance Score: 1.3% of patients with a score of 1 failed sternal closure compared with 18.9% of patients with a score of 3 (p=0.0028). Among the haemodynamic and ventilatory parameters studied, only superior caval vein saturation following sternal closure was different between patients who did and did not fail sternal closure (30±7 versus 42±10%, p=0.002). All patients who failed sternal closure did so within 24 hours owing to hypoxaemia, hypercarbia, or haemodynamic impairment.
When performed according to our current clinical practice, sternal closure causes transient and mild changes in haemodynamic and ventilatory parameters. Monitoring of SvO2 following sternal closure may permit early identification of patients at risk for failure.
Despite many advances in recent years for patients with critical paediatric and congenital cardiac disease, significant variation in outcomes remains across hospitals. Collaborative quality improvement has enhanced the quality and value of health care across specialties, partly by determining the reasons for variation and targeting strategies to reduce it. Developing an infrastructure for collaborative quality improvement in paediatric cardiac critical care holds promise for developing benchmarks of quality, to reduce preventable mortality and morbidity, optimise the long-term health of patients with critical congenital cardiovascular disease, and reduce unnecessary resource utilisation in the cardiac intensive care unit environment. The Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care Consortium (PC4) has been modelled after successful collaborative quality improvement initiatives, and is positioned to provide the data platform necessary to realise these objectives. We describe the development of PC4 including the philosophical, organisational, and infrastructural components that will facilitate collaborative quality improvement in paediatric cardiac critical care.
Mechanical circulatory support is an invaluable tool in the care of children with severe refractory cardiac and or pulmonary failure. Two forms of mechanical circulatory support are currently available to neonates, infants, and smaller children, namely extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and use of a ventricular assist device, with each technique having unique advantages and disadvantages. The intra-aortic balloon pump is a third form of mechanical support that has been successfully used in larger children, adolescents, and adults, but has limited applicability in smaller children. In this review, we discuss the current experiences with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and ventricular assist devices in children with cardiac disease.
A variety of forms of mechanical circulatory support are available for children with cardiopulmonary dysfunction refractory to conventional management. These devices require extensive resources, both human and economic. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation can be effectively used in a variety of settings to provide support to critically-ill patients with cardiac disease. Careful selection of patients and timing of intervention remains challenging. Special consideration should be given to children with cardiac disease with regard to anatomy, physiology, cannulation, and circuit management. Even though exciting progress is being made in the development of ventricular assist devices for long-term mechanical support in children, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation remains the mainstay of mechanical circulatory support in children with complex anatomy, particularly those needing rapid resuscitation and those with a functionally univentricular circulation.
As the familiarity and experience with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation has grown, new indications have evolved, including emergent resuscitation. This utilization has been termed extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The literature supporting emergent cardiopulmonary support is mounting. Reasonable survival rates have been achieved after initiation of support during active compressions of the chest following in-hospital cardiac arrest. Due to the limitations of conventional circuits for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, some centres have developed novel systems for rapid cardiopulmonary support.
Many centres previously considered a functionally univentricular circulation to be a contraindication to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, but improved results have been achieved recently with this complex subset of patients. The registry of the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization recently reported the outcome of extracorporeal life support used in neonates for cardiac indications from 1996 to 2000. Of the 740 neonates who were placed on extracorporeal life support for cardiac indications, 118 had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. There was no significant difference in survival between these patients and those with other defects. It is now common to use extracorporeal membrane oxygenation to support patients with a functionally univentricular circulation, and reasonable survival rates are to be expected.
Although extracorporeal membrane oxygenation has become a standard of care for many paediatric centres, its use is limited to those patients who require only short-term cardiopulmonary support. Mechanical ventricular assist devices have become standard therapy for adults with cardiac failure refractory to maximal medical management. Several devices are readily available in the United States of America for adults, but there are fewer options available to children. Over the last few years, substantial progress has been made in paediatric mechanical support. Ventricular assist devices are being used with increasing frequency in children with cardiac failure refractory to medical therapy for primary treatment as a long-term bridge to recovery or transplantation. The paracorporeal, pneumatic, pulsatile “Berlin Heart” ventricular assist device is being used with increasing frequency in Europe and North America to provide univentricular and biventricular support. With this device, a patient can be maintained on mechanical circulatory support while extubated, being mobilized, and feeding by mouth.
Mechanical circulatory support should be anticipated, and every attempt must be made to initiate support “urgently” rather than “emergently”, before the presence of dysfunction of end organs or circulatory collapse. In an emergency, these patients can be resuscitated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and subsequently transitioned to a long-term ventricular assist device after a period of stability.
The complexity of the modern systems providing health care presents a unique challenge in delivering care of the required quality in a safe environment. Issues of safety have been thrust into the limelight because of adverse events highly publicized in the general media.
In the United States of America, improving the safety and quality in health care has been set forth as a priority for improvements in the 21st century in the report from the Institute of Medicine. Many measures have now been initiated for improving the safety of patients at hospital, regional, and national level, and through initiatives sponsored by governments and private organizations. In this review, we summarize known concepts and current issues on the safety of patients, and their applicability to children with congenital cardiac disease. Prior to examining the issues of medical error and safety, it is important to define the terminology.
An error is defined as the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended, also known as an execution error, or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim, this representing a planning error. An active error is an error that occurs at the level of the frontline operator, and the effects of which are felt immediately. A latent error is an error in the design, organization, training and maintenance, that leads to operator errors, and the effects of which are typically dormant in the system for lengthy periods of time. Latent errors may cause harm given the right circumstances and environment.
An adverse event is defined as an injury resulting from medical intervention. A preventable adverse event is an adverse event that occurs due to medical error. Negligent adverse events are a subset of preventable adverse events where the care provided did not meet the standard of care expected of that practitioner.
The study of improving the delivery of safe care for our patients is a rapidly growing field. Important components for development of programmes to improve the safety of patients include the leadership for the programme, the implementation of process design based on human limitations, the promotion of teamwork and function, the anticipation of unexpected events, and the creation of a learning environment.
Much is yet to be learned about the risk and incidence of adverse events during hospitalization of children with congenital cardiac disease. Errors due to human factors, such as poor communication, poor coordination, and suboptimal team work, have shown to be important causes of adverse outcomes in children undergoing cardiac surgery, and should be a focus for improvement. Future research on evaluating causes and prevention of medical errors and adverse events in this population at high risk, and consuming high resources, is essential.
Issues of inadequate safeguards for patients have been prominent in the media, and have been highlighted in reports from the Institute of Medicine. Our review discusses research on the causes of medical error, and proposes concepts to design successful programmes to improve safety for the patients on a local level.
Pulseless cardiac arrest, defined as the cessation of cardiac mechanical activity, determined by unresponsiveness, apneoa, and the absence of a palpable central pulse, accounts for around one-twentieth of admissions to paediatric intensive care units, be they medical or exclusively cardiac. Such cardiac arrest is higher in children admitted to a cardiac as opposed to a paediatric intensive care unit, but the outcome of these patients is better, with just over two-fifths surviving when treated in the cardiac intensive care unit, versus between one-sixth and one-quarter of those admitted to paediatric intensive care units. Children who receive chest compressions for bradycardia with pulses have a significantly higher rate of survival to discharge, at 60%, than do those presenting with pulseless cardiac arrest, with only 27% surviving to discharge. This suggests that early resuscitation before the patient becomes pulseless, along with early recognition and intervention, are likely to improve outcomes. Recently published reports of in-hospital cardiac arrests in children can be derived from the multi-centric National Registry of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation provided by the American Heart Association. The population is heterogeneous, but most arrests occurred in children with progressive respiratory insufficiency, and/or progressive circulatory shock. During the past 4 years at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 3.1% of the average 1000 annual admissions to the cardiac intensive care unit have received cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Overall survival of those receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation was 46%. Survival was better for those receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation after cardiac surgery, at 53%, compared with survival of 33% for pre-operative or non-surgical patients undergoing resuscitation. Clearly there is room for improvement in outcomes from cardiac resuscitation in children with cardiac disease. In this review, therefore, we summarize the newest developments in paediatric resuscitation, with an expanded focus upon the unique challenges and importance of anticipatory care in infants and children with cardiac disease.
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