Pediatric Heart Specialists
The Echocardiography Laboratory at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Systems (ACH) is an IAC accredited full-service, state of the art program providing all facets of congenital cardiac imaging. We perform nearly 10,000 transthoracic echocardiograms, 400 transesophageal, and 900 fetal echocardiograms per year.
The use of high quality echocardiography is critical to the accurate diagnosis of congenital heart disease and our echocardiography lab serves our clinics, outpatients, and inpatient needs. This includes advanced transthoracic imaging including 3-dimensional echocardiography and myocardial strain imaging. Our statewide echocardiography interpretation network provides interpretative services 24/7 to hospitals and clinics around the state and region who are caring for children with suspected or known congenital heart disease. Our echocardiography team also provides support for our cardiac surgery program in the form of transesophageal echocardiograms at the time of surgery as well as diagnostic studies needed for more detailed evaluation of patients who are difficult to image. Transesophagal echocardiography is also provided to assist in placement of intracardiac valves and devices used to close defects within the heart.
Our teaching philosophy for training fellows is that echocardiography is a foundational tool with which the cardiology fellows builds their knowledge base in congenital heart disease. Echocardiography interpretation skills are important in the majority of pediatric cardiology roles the fellow will choose. Therefore, our aim is to provide the trainee with the opportunity to become an exceptional echocardiographer by the end of the categorical fellowship and be prepared to fully function as an imaging pediatric cardiologist.
Fetal Cardiac Services
If your baby has been diagnosed with a heart defect before birth, the Fetal Heart Program at Arkansas Children’s can help give your baby the best chance for long term success. Our fetal heart specialists perform over 900 fetal echocardiogram evaluations each year. Prenatal imaging of the fetal heart is performed not only at Arkansas Children’s but also via our “tele-fetal network” sites at Arkansas Children’s Northwest, Jonesboro, Texarkana, Fort Smith and Pine Bluff. Our physicians work closely with our high-risk obstetrical colleagues to coordinate perinatal care and to optimize outcomes.
Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging and 3D Visualization
When echocardiography can’t paint a complete picture of a patient’s heart disease, cardiac MRI and cardiac CT are sometimes needed to more fully understand the heart. Our team of advanced imaging cardiologists and cardiac radiologists perform these technically complex imaging studies to discern the details of cardiac anatomy and function. These tests are often critical to achieving excellent cardiac surgery outcomes. In some cases, advanced visualization technologies are used to understand anatomic relationships in three-dimensional format. These include virtual reality and a dedicated 3-D print lab which is used to make plastic models of complex hearts. Advanced imaging cardiologists work closely with our pediatric heart surgeons to refine surgical plans with these technologies, enabling the surgeon to save time in the operating room.
Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory
Our cardiac catheterization team provides both diagnostic and therapeutic cardiac catheterization procedures in support of our cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery teams. Two state-of-the-art catheterization suites were opened in 2021, including a hybrid cath lab/OR for combined catheterization and cardiac surgical procedures which allow our interventional cardiologists to work side-by-side with our cardiothoracic surgeons on our most complex patients. Our cath lab provides cutting edge care for the full spectrum of patients with congenital heart disease, from closing the patent ductus arteriosus in premature infants to placing transcatheter valves in adults with congenital heart disease, in addition to other standard transcatheter interventions such as device closure of intracardiac and extracardiac defects, balloon valvuloplasty and angioplasty, and stent angioplasty. The cath lab also supports our heart failure and transplant services through cardiac biopsy procedures and through transcatheter ventricular assist devices. Our cath lab is committed to providing excellent care with minimal radiation exposure and is among the nation’s leaders in low radiation dose when compared to other centers in the IMPACT registry.
Our Electrophysiology Program provides diagnostic electrophysiology studies as well as transcatheter ablation of arrhythmias utilizing both radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation. Patients receive both pacemakers and implantable defibrillators throughout the age spectrum of congenital and acquired heart disease and our program was one of the first to implant subcutaneous defibrillators in pediatric patients. The program also offers leadless pacemaker implantation. Arrhythmia management and consultation is also provided by this dedicated team consisting of our electrophysiologist, APRN, and specialty nurse.
Cardiopulmonary Exercise Lab
Our exercise lab performs both cardiopulmonary and cardiac-only exercise testing for evaluation of exercise performance, oxygen consumption, exercise induced arrhythmias, and hypoxemia with exercise. Evaluation of cardiac rhythm, saturation, oxygen consumption, and blood pressure response to exercise are all evaluated as part of a comprehensive exercise evaluation.
Cardiac Transplant/Heart Failure
The heart transplant program consists of a multi-disciplinary collaborative team within the Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Heart Center caring for our extensive population of children with end stage congenital or acquired heart disease. This includes a dedicated clinic for patients with advanced heart failure who are not yet in need of transplantation. The Heart Center serves as a referral center for a six state region and provides the entire spectrum of advanced cardiac care in children including an active ventricular assist device program (Heartmate III, Heartware, Impella,, Total Artificial Heart, Berlin Excor) in addition to ECMO (including mobile ECMO) as well as expert medical management. Our heart transplant program performed its first transplant in 1990 and has performed over 350 transplants.
Adult Congenital Heart Disease
Success in the treatment of children with congenital heart disease has led to routine survival into adulthood for most heart problems. This has resulted in the development of specialized clinics and physicians to care for the unique problems and needs of adults with congenital heart disease. With the only board-certified physicians in Adult CHD in the state, our clinic offers evaluation and follow up of adults with repaired CHD, advanced imaging and arrhythmia management for these patients, and consultative services for physicians around the state and region who need assistance in the care of this ever-growing group of CHD survivors to ensure the best quality and quantity of life.
Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU)
The cardiovascular intensive care unit at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Heart Center was one of the first dedicated intensive care units in the region to provide dedicated care to critically ill neonates, children, and adolescents with congenital or acquired heart disease.
Around-the-clock care is provided in the unit either immediately following heart surgery or during times of serious illness by a multidisciplinary team. Two physician-led teams, fully supported by advanced nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacy, respiratory therapy, nutrition, social work, child-life, and a team of dedicated cardiovascular intensive care nurses provide care within the cardiovascular intensive care unit.
Every member of the team has been specially trained to provide coordinated care for pediatric heart patients whose conditions are complex and fragile. The team members work collaboratively with pediatric cardiac surgeons, cardiac anesthesiologists, and all members of the Heart Center team. Contained within our unit are two cardiac operating rooms as well as both of our cardiac catheterization laboratories to provide even more centralized care.
Besides providing the highest level of care for our patients, the unit also provides training for future generations of cardiac critical care physicians and are actively involved in quality and safety initiatives, clinical and translational research activities.
Patients admitted to our Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit remain in our unit for their entire hospital stay and are also supported by Child Life specialists who coordinate activities for patients during the recovery process.