Mechanical Circulatory Support Saves Lives in Children with Myocarditis

Joyful young boy holds red heart.

 

Myocarditis is rare in children. When it appears, however, treatment is difficult. While the muscle slowly recovers, there’s always a risk of heart failure. Luckily, mechanical circulatory aids for children have been proven to improve health outcomes, resulting in better recoveries and thousands of lives saved. Myocarditis Foundation explains how here.

About Myocarditis in Children

Myocarditis is the scientific term for inflammation of the heart muscle. Often the result of a viral infection, this condition weakens the heart muscle and may even impact its electrical system, causing it to no longer pump as effectively as it should. In severe cases, this impaired function leads to heart failure, stroke, or cardiac arrest.

In children, the inflammation will sometimes recede on its own or with medical therapy, but reduced heart function can cause long-term problems in the meantime. A way to support the heart’s function becomes invaluable while the child’s system recovers – which is where mechanical circulatory support aids come in.

What Is Mechanical Circulatory Support?

Mechanical circulatory support (MCS) devices are tiny mechanical pumps designed to replace or assist the heart’s natural function. When a patient’s heart is unlikely to regain its strength after treatment, MCS takes over part of its function to ensure they can live a fulfilling life. Mechanical circulatory support devices come in a few types, including:

  • Ventricular assist device (VAD): This is an implanted pump that assists the heart rather than replacing it. A VAD takes on the work of one of the heart’s chambers, or ventricles, and can be designed for the left, right, or both ventricles, depending on the patient’s needs.
  • Total artificial heart: If the whole heart is too damaged to regain function, a full replacement may be required. Doctors remove the damaged organ and replace it with a mechanical version that fills the same function, sometimes more effectively than a transplant.
  • Short-term MCS: Sometimes, a permanent implant isn’t necessary. Various short-term assist devices are available that can support heart function for days and weeks at a time. It’s an invaluable option for patients recovering from heart disease or surgery.

Saving Lives with MCS

When a child is diagnosed with myocarditis, mechanical circulatory support can save their life. Most modern treatments include rounds of antibiotics, steroids, and anti-inflammatory medication to gradually restore the heart to its usual function. In extreme cases, however, this method can be insufficient – especially when heart failure may occur before the muscle has had time to recover.

More and more doctors are now using short-term, or temporary, MCS devices to increase the chances of survival. While the heart recovers, the device takes over part of its function – keeping the blood moving. Not only does this avoid the risk of heart failure, but it also removes some of the strain, allowing the heart to recover more quickly and effectively. The temporary device can be then removed when the child recovers or it can be replaced with a VAD or total artificial heart, depending on the severity of the long-term damage.

Learn More with Myocarditis Foundation

Life-saving innovations like mechanical circulatory support exist thanks to the efforts of dedicated doctors and researchers. Myocarditis Foundation’s goal is to support these efforts, helping them to better understand myocarditis and develop more effective treatments for improved health outcomes. Contact us to learn more about this mission or the benefits of circulatory aids for children.