"Sammy was born with a hole in his liver about the size of a garden hose that has caused him complicated health problems," said Dr. Henri Justino, an interventional cardiologist at Texas Children's Heart Center and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. "Since we successfully perform a wide variety of interventional cardiac procedures in the catheterization lab every day, we consulted with colleagues in the Liver Center, and decided to apply the same procedure in Sammy's case," said Justino.
Sammy Drake, a resident of West Texas, was born with a rare liver problem known as patent ductus venosus (PDV). The ductus venosus, a large vein that crosses through the liver and empties near the heart, is normally present before birth and plays an important role in the development of the fetus. After birth, however, the PDV is no longer needed and usually closes on its own. Closure of this vein allows blood returning from the intestines to go to the liver, an essential step needed to filter certain nutrients and toxins in foods.
In Drake's case, the PDV did not close. Instead, it allowed blood returning from the intestines carrying toxic ammonia, to take a shortcut through the PDV directly into the heart and lungs. The high concentration of ammonia in Sammy's bloodstream was toxic to many organs, including his brain. Ammonia likely contributed to his chronic lung problems, making him so short of breath that it is difficult for him to speak.
Justino performed th