Mass. General suspends pediatric cardiac surgeries due to errors

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Image Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has suspended its pediatric cardiac surgery program after two babies recently suffered serious complications following errors made during open-heart surgery.

The Harvard teaching hospital had expanded the small program and taken on more complex cases after hiring a heart surgeon two years ago to operate solely on children. However, hospital executives said they shut down the program last week, at least temporarily, according to the Boston Globe.

State public health officials began investigating the two cases after Mass. General notified them on April 14 that the hospital had stopped taking young heart surgery patients and was evaluating whether to reopen the program.

David Torchiana, MD, head of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, told the Globe that both babies survived their operations, although one suffered neurological damage. That child, who was operated on at the end of January, has since been transferred to Children's Hospital Boston. The second infant had surgery in March and is still at Mass. General and recovering well, Torchiana said.

In both cases, technical errors were made during the surgeries, Torchiana said, though he declined to go into detail because of what he called "patient privacy concerns."

Mass. General has had a pediatric heart surgery program since the 1960s, Torchiana said, but for most of those years, heart surgeons who operate mostly on adults have included children as part of their practice.