New surgical procedure helps Citrus Heights baby recover from heart defect

Local News

CITRUS HEIGHTS, Calif. (KTXL) – Citrus Heights parents told FOX40 their little boy is living proof of a medical miracle.

Ricky Anderson was born with Down syndrome but that wasn’t his only challenge. Children with Down syndrome have a greater likelihood of also having congenital heart defects that require surgery.

In 6-month-old Ricky’s case, there was a sizeable hole in the tissue known as the septum. That tissue is what separates the left and right sides of his heart.

His doctors said he had a complete atrioventricular canal defect, the kind of which is believed to have never before been repaired on a child in the U.S. with a minimally invasive procedure.

Usually, to fix such a problem, a young patient’s breastplate would have to be broken, leaving them with an ugly chest scar and at least six weeks’ worth of recovery.

But instead, on Feb. 25, Sutter Medical Center and Stanford Health surgeon Dr. Naruhito Watanabe were able to perform the repair through a small incision on the right side of Ricky’s body.

It was a mini-thoracotomy procedure Dr. Watanabe pioneered in the U.S. in 2018.

“So this procedure is more advanced in Europe and other countries. In U.S., a little bit behind,” explained Watanabe explained. “I contacted a surgeon in Brazil, so I contacted her and got the information, and I got the pictures and the videos, and then I check it.”

“I did a lot of research on babies with Down’s and CHD, things to make him comfortable. I got him a special wedge pillow, certain bottles to help him eat,” said Ricky’s mother, Jessie Anderson. “That helped with breathing because he would get extremely fatigued after eating, very sweaty and winded, and he would sleep a lot but I would wake him up every three hours to try to get him to eat something.”

“Huge difference in growth since after the surgery. He’s shooting up,” said his father, Jason Anderson.

Since 2018, Watanabe has performed the mini-thoracotomy procedure on 29 patients.

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