With a sparsity in donor hearts comes an increase in heart failure as children patiently wait for their new organ to arrive. But through the cardiothoracic surgery program at Riley Children’s Health, patients are no longer experiencing prolonged wait times to receive the strong heart they need.
As the first pediatric hospital in the state to use the Berlin Heart, a mechanical circular support system helping failed hearts, kids at Riley Children’s are greatly benefiting from our novel cardiac care.
Mark Turrentine, MD, division chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Riley Children’s, specializes in transplant care and is notably the first physician in Indiana and the second physician in North America to implant the Berlin Heart – its inaugural implantation dating back to 2003. Upon approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the device is a first-of-its-kind to be successfully transplanted in a Riley patient.
The heart machine assists the failing left ventricle and is specifically designed to support small infants and children with life-threatening heart failure refractory. Patients with the transplantation experience improved circulation, end-organ function and quality of life overall.
"The system basically consists of a pump that functions as the main pumping chamber of the heart," Dr. Turrentine said. "A valve will close, a valve will open, and blood is ejected out. It allows us to do for children what we basically do for adults."
Additionally, “There really isn't a long-term durable device like this one after all these years, trials, ideas, constructs, prototypes and so forth,” Dr. Turrentine added. “This technology truly gives us a chance to help children with end-stage heart disease.”
Among one of the recent Berlin Heart transplantations at Riley Children’s involved patient Edward Sandefur, where Dr. Turrentine implemented the device to support Edward’s diagnosis of transposition of the great arteries with Ebstein’s anomaly.
“The machine has consistently promised much needed wait time for patients like Edward and has overall provided a level of comfort for families,” Dr. Turrentine said.
Furthermore, Dr. Turrentine played a key part in the device’s journey to FDA-approval back in 2011, where results of the trial were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. In a study that analyzed children using the ventricular assist device as a bridge to heart transplantation, findings showed that the machine significantly increased survival rates when compared to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
While the progression to developing pediatric cardiac devices for children with severe heart failure has been slow previously, Dr. Turrentine is an exception, as he is one of the select few to normalize the use of the Berlin Heart worldwide. To date, the technology has been transplanted in about 1,000 children, where 20 of those children have been Riley patients.
This year marks 20 years since the initial transplantation in Indiana, and Dr. Turrentine and his team have plans to continue providing this type of novel care to patients experiencing heart failure and cases alike.
"It's an interesting history between Indianapolis and the Berlin Heart," Dr. Turrentine said. “To be the first in the state to adopt this device, it’s a remarkable feeling.”
In addition to being one of the first pediatric programs in the U.S. to support the failing heart in a child with the Berlin Heart, the cardiothoracic surgery program at Riley Children’s Health treats and manages the full scope of cardiac cases. As well, Dr. Turrentine and his team support patients internationally, having performed 400 surgeries and 200 cardiac catheterizations since beginning medical mission trips in 2007. Learn more in the annual report.
Related Programs & Departments
Dr. Mark W. Turrentine specializes in Transplant Care for Riley Physicians Cardiothoracic Surgery. Dr. Turrentine earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine and returned there for an internship and residency. He also completed a fellowship at Indiana University School of Medicine.