Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) is a potentially life-threatening illness that often has a long-term impact on the development and general health of infants. In infants with this birth defect, there is a hole in the diaphragm (the muscle that’s responsible for breathing) that allows organs from the abdomen to move into the chest and interfere with the normal development and function of the lungs. It occurs about once in every 2000-2500 births and typically requires surgery to repair.
Information about lung and heart anatomy and function are often needed to diagnose and treat these infants appropriately both before and after surgery. Current methods used to obtain information about lung and heart structure and function in CDH patients are inadequate and may pose significant medical risk to the child.
Radiology researchers at Cincinnati Children’s along with their colleagues at The Heart Institute are using innovative methods involving Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (cMRI) to look at the heart and lungs of infants diagnosed with CDH. Cincinnati Children’s Radiology department is ideally suited to participate in this study due to our having developed a unique MRI scanner designed for very small infants, the only one of its kind in the United States. Using cMRI provides non-invasive, high-resolution information about the anatomy and blood flow of CDH patients.
The use of cMRI is safe as it does not use radiation or place infants at increased medical risk, making cMRI an ideal method for studying and evaluating CDH. This is important since even after the initial surgical repair, the early impact of CDH on lung development often has long-lasting effects on the patient’s subsequent development and general health, making repeated follow-up evaluations necessary and beneficial.
By replacing complex and expensive invasive procedures, cMRI has the potential to save time and money while reducing medical risks for infants diagnosed with CDH.
Contributed by Jean Tkah (PhD) and edited by Tim O’Connor.