• More than 20 percent of all children who receive heart surgery are re-admitted to the hospital within a month of their operation, costing the US health system hundreds of millions in largely avoidable expenses.
  • Biomarkers of acute kidney injury remain elevated for a surprisingly long time after children receive cardiac surgery.
  • In children and teens with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, declining cardiac function is less related to advancing age and more directly related to scar formation.

These are three of several new findings presented by researchers from Cincinnati Children's during the American College of Cardiology (ACC) scientific conference, held March 9-11 in San Francisco.

In the readmission study, Samuel Hanke, MD, a pediatric cardiology fellow at the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s, reports that the five-year economic impact of readmitting children after heart surgery adds up to about $500 million.

The study reflects data from more than 53,000 patients discharged from 42 hospitals between 2006 and 2011.

“Readmission rates are on par to those of adult heart failure and myocardial infarction,” Hanke says. “There is significant opportunity for quality improvement efforts, which will result in improved patient care transitions and decreased health care charges.”

In the Duchenne study, Animesh Tandon, MD, also a pediatric cardiology fellow at the Heart Institute, reports that loss of heart function caused by the disease was linked to scar tissue formation, which does not always track with age.

“This is important because this means we should look for scarring in the heart routinely, and we should continue to investigate whether medications that can reduce scarring might help slow down some of the cardiac dysfunction that can develop in these patients,” Tandon says.

In the biomarker study, David Cooper, MD, MPH, reports that urinary biomarkers of acute kidney injury remain elevated long after cardiac surgery, potentially indicating a risk of long-term, chronic kidney disease.

“The significance of the biomarkers remaining elevated this far out is unknown,” Cooper says. “However, we hypothesize that it represents evidence of ongoing, subclinical kidney injury (inflammatory and structural). Without enough follow-up, some of these patients will likely develop clinical evidence of chronic kidney disease.”

For more details about these and other pediatric cardiology research findings, search the ACC.13 website.