NEW YORK (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS)A simplified surgical approach that uses an adult-sized, basic ring annuloplasty with a complete edge-to-edge leaflet repair has been found to yield good outcomes in a group of children with connective tissue disorders like Marfan syndrome and Loeys-Dietz syndrome and mitral regurgitation, based on an evaluation of the technique at four centers.

Cardiac surgeons employed the simplified operation in 18 patients under age 18 (median age 8.2 years) and found that after 2.4 years of follow-up, no patients required another operation for mitral regurgitation, reported Dr. Luca Vricella, pediatrics director, pediatric cardiac surgery and heart transplantation, John Hopkins University, Baltimore.

The patients underwent the simplified mitral valve repair at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Cardiac Surgery in Baltimore and Orlando; Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.; and University of Pavia Medical School in Italy.

These young patients can be challenging to operate on because of skeletal abnormalities and marginal pulmonary reserve, Dr. Vricella said at the meeting sponsored by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery. Of the 18 children in the study, 15 had Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that commonly affects the heart valves and aorta. “The most common mode of early presentation of mitral valve pathology, from a morphological standpoint, is that mitral regurgitation is often characterized as severe bileaflet prolapse and annular and left ventricular dilation,” Dr. Vricella said.

The simplified technique involves an approach through an atriotomy and placing an adult-sized annuloplasty ring in the valve. The next step is to place an Alfieri stitch, named for the Italian cardiac surgeon Dr. Ottavio Alfieri, with a braided suture in the middle of the valve, which opposes the leaflet “very effectively,” Dr. Vricella said.

In the study group, all 18 patients had severe bileaflet prolapse and severe mitral regurgitation of grade 4 or higher, but all patients also had normal ejection fraction, Dr. Vricella said. One infant was being considered for a heart transplant.

The operation was achieved in isolation in less than an hour. Five patients underwent simultaneous valve-sparing aortic root replacement, one of whom died (one of two deaths in a larger 300-plus group of both adults and children who had valve-sparing aortic root repair). No other complications were reported among the 18-patient group. Median length of stay in the hospital was 9 days.

After the operation, all patients had significant reductions in mitral regurgitation. After 2.4 years, 94% of survivors maintained mild regurgitation or better without stenosis. Entering the study, the median left ventricular end-diastolic diameter (LVEDD) score of all patients was 4.9 (range 2.1-11.9), but at 2.4 years after the operation the median LVEDD score had regressed to 1.3 (range –0.51-4.3).

“In pediatric patients with severe mitral regurgitation and connective tissue disorders, a simplified repair can result in intermediate-term competency without systolic anterior motion and with no mitral stenosis,” Dr. Vricella said. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised in seeing this reduction in left ventricular enlargement, and particularly in this group of patients in which you may need to have a longer plant time, simplifying things so you don’t have to intervene on the subvalvular annuloplasty.”