Patient Tori Downey

Minimally Invasive Surgery Repairs Heart Defect

When seven-year-old Tori Downey was diagnosed with pneumonia, her parents were frustrated but not overly worried. Tori was diagnosed with asthma at age 6 and always had numerous respiratory illnesses each season. But when Tori’s condition did not improve, her parents talked with her pediatrician and asked for further tests. And her pediatrician diagnosed as having a vascular ring, which is a heart defect that encircles and restricts the breathing and swallowing passages.

Tori’s dad, Steven, began calling his friends and combing the internet for experts on the surgical treatment of vascular rings. He consulted doctors at other top children’s hospitals, before e-mailing Brenner Children's Hospital.

A representative responded within 30 minutes, Downey said. “He explained things in terms we could understand and most importantly, he gave us multiple treatment options – something the other leading cardiothoracic surgeons in the Baltimore and D.C. area hadn’t done.”

One of those options was to repair Tori’s congenital defect using four small incisions on the side of her chest and using a scope and specially-designed instruments to see and repair the defect. This minimally-invasive or video-assisted procedure is only offered at a handful of hospitals in the United States.

The procedure allows the patient to go home the same day and back to normal activities within two to three days. An open chest procedure would require that we make a significantly larger incision in the side of the chest, spread the ribs and open the child’s chest to complete the repair. It’s a much more invasive procedure, requires a day in the intensive care unit, mush more pain medication and considerable recovery time.

The Downeys agreed that the minimally-invasive procedure would be worth the 12-hour road trip from their home near Annapolis, Maryland.

Brenner Children’s Hospital offers minimally-invasive procedures not found at other children’s hospitals in the southeast. In addition, pediatric-trained anesthesiologists, nurses and other staff are specially trained in the care of children. The children’s surgery center uses smaller equipment and is painted with child-friendly images to keep children comfortable in a hospital setting.

The Downeys are hopeful that this winter won’t be a repeat of past cold and flu seasons.

“Tori’s condition is rare but we were able to fix it without complications,” Hines said. “I expect her to be healthier all around.” 

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