When a Canadian child's heart is in critical condition we rely one of a few heroes across the nation to take action. Who are these people and what exactly do they do? The following are the words of Dr. Paul Kantor, Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at the Stollery Children's Hospital.
Pediatric Cardiology is different from cardiology in big people because a lot of children are born with heart disease and a lot of children acquire weakness of their heart muscle, a condition called heart failure, which I’ve been particularly interested in. It’s not well recognized by the general public. In fact, people are surprised to hear that children can have heart problems, but it is the most common congenital defect. Also it’s commonly unrecognized so children are often rushed in to the emergency room with heart failure symptoms. It’s hard to recognize. So I felt that I could make the biggest impact by trying to help the development of awareness of children with heart failure problems, and that’s why I work in a specific field of heart failure and cardiac transplant for children. I also do general cardiology and I find that day-to-day practice of reassuring families that been found doesn’t have a serious problem is equally rewarding as being able to identify a problem when it is there and being able to offer a treatment. The treatment for cardiac problems in children is fantastic these days. Whereas 40 years ago, most children did not survive. The complete opposite is true now – About 95% of children that receive treatment for serious heart problems survive up until their adulthood so that’s very gratifying and that's a result of decades of effort by lots and lots of people around the world.
The treatment for cardiac problems in children is fantastic these days. Whereas 40 years ago, most children did not survive. The complete opposite is true now – About 95% of children that receive treatment for serious heart problems survive up until their adulthood…
It’s amazing the skilled surgeons that do this. There are not many of them. To be clear I’m not a surgeon, I’m one of the medical doctor that helps identify the disease and helps patients manage them medically. We have 3 heart surgeons here at the Stollery, and there are approximately 10 across Canada that do this kind of specialized work. It’s not a whole lot of people and we are very dependent on those people to maintain an incredibly high standard of skills and success, because if they are not successful, people notice that right away. There’s very little margin for error. We collectively as a group do operations on babies as small as 1.5kg in weight, that’s premature babies, all the way up to adults who have been born with a defect when they were a child and had to have it partially repaired and then need to have it re-repaired later on. So the weight range of the patients we see ranges from 1kg up to 150kg. It’s a big variation and a lot of skill is required to understand how differently one use their approach to different problems.