A complication of open-heart surgery that keeps patients from absorbing essential protein through their intestinal walls has been solved, according to a study by scientists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is the first to prove the condition, which causes excessive bowel movements, results from malfunctions of the lymph system, a Children's Hospital release said. Thanks to new imaging tests, doctors pinpointed the cause as improper flow between the liver and small intestine, the release said.
“After identifying the leakage site in a lymphatic vessel, the team intervenes, using a technique called lymphatic embolization,” Maxim Itkin, co-director of Penn Medicine’s Center for Lymphatic Imaging and Interventions and co-author of the study, said in the release. “Through a small needle, we can block the abnormal flow with a variety of tools – endovascular glue, coils, iodized oil – based on an individual patient's needs.”
Although few clues exist as to why operations on one ventricle of the heart trigger protein-losing enteropathy, as the condition is known, the new procedure has been proven reliable for both children and adult patients.
Investigators are now focusing on refining the procedure and assessing its lasting safety and efficacy, the release said.