HeartKids funds vital research for cardiac surgery patients

01 May 2018
Heart Research

Researchers from the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network have been awarded two HeartKids project grants to support research into improving health outcomes for children undergoing major cardiac surgery.

The HeartKids Grants-in-Aid Program awarded $273,000 across a total of seven projects, enabling vital research into childhood and congenital heart disease across Australia.

Associate Professor Karen Walker and Professor David Winlaw each received a share of the funding to support their research projects to improve health outcomes for children undergoing major cardiac surgery.

Associate Professor Walker and Natalie Fairbairn are researchers at Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, where they will use the funding to continue their work on the DAISy project. DAISy, or Development After Infant Surgery, is a world-first prospective longitudinal cohort study evaluating the developmental outcomes of infants who underwent cardiac and non-cardiac surgery compared to healthy newborns.  

Phases I and II of the DAISy study have been completed, and from this it has been shown that infants who underwent surgery as a baby had increased developmental delay at both 1 and 3 years old.  Infants who underwent cardiac surgery are at the highest developmental risk overall. 

The HeartKids funds will support the third phase of the study, DAISy8, which aims to evaluate the educational and developmental skills of the children from the original cohort, who are now eight or nine years of age.

Children from remote and rural areas are also being accounted for in the study, with the research team providing home visits in these areas for 30% of the cohort.  The HeartKids grant will allow these home visits to continue all around NSW.

Professor David Winlaw, researcher and clinician at the Heart Centre for Children, was also successful in securing HeartKids funding for research to guide a personalised approached to post-operative care for babies who have undergone major cardiac surgery. 

As Professor in Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at the University of Sydney and the head of paediatric cardiothoracic surgery at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, he has a particular interest in improving outcomes for these very sick children.

Clinician researchers including Dr Gillian Blue, Professor Nadia Badawi and Dr Jonathan Egan from the Heart Centre for Children, Grace Centre for Newborn Care and the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit will also be investigators on the study, together with collaborators Dr Eleni Giannoulatou and Prof Sally Dunwoodie from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

The project will analyse the genetic information of newborns that undergo heart surgery for transposition of the great arteries (TGA).  While many babies survive well into adulthood, up to a third of patients suffer from early post-operative cardiac dysfunction and other serious complications which require prolonged stays in intensive care.

The aim of the project is to identify individual variation in genes that are associated with the development of low cardiac output and length of intensive care stay.  This information can then be used to tailor treatments and ensure the best outcomes for each individual patient.

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