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Science / Medicine : Huge Gains Made in Curing Heart Defects in Children

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

More than half a million children with heart defects have been saved over the past 25 years, thanks to improved surgical techniques, a study says.

The study of 2,701 babies with eight common defects found that surgical advances have led to “dramatic, if not profound, improvements in survival.”

“In the last 25 years, more than half a million children with functionally important heart defects have reached adulthood with medical and surgical intervention,” according to the report, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

The study, led by Cynthia D. Morris of the Department of Medicine at Portland’s Oregon Health Services University, looked at all Oregon residents 18 or younger who had surgery for any of the eight defects between 1958 and 1989. Researchers found that surgery to correct three particular defects has achieved such high survival rates that it can be considered a cure, with 100% of patients operated on after 1980 surviving five years or longer.

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But the March of Dimes said the strides are not great enough. “Congenital heart defects are still the most lethal group of birth defects in America,” the White Plains, N.Y.-based foundation said in a statement.


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