Mass General suspends pediatric cardiac surgery after complications

A prestigious Boston academic institution has suspended its pediatric cardiac survey program in the wake of surgical errors that were made. Massachusetts General Hospital recently saw two babies suffer serious complications due to mistakes made during open-heart surgery.

While both babies survived their procedures, one suffered neurological damage. In both cases, the errors were "technical," according to Dr. David Torchiana, head of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization. The state's public health officials are now investigating the two cases.

The Harvard teaching hospital's program began small, but had started expanding and taking on more complicated cases after hiring a dedicated heart surgeon for the program two years ago. However, the program never experienced anything like the the volume seen by programs like the one at Boston's Children's Hospital, which performs about 1,100 pediatric cardiac surgery operations a year. Instead, it performed 90 procedures over the last 20 months.

Arguably, some professionals say, this may have contributed to the errors, which seem to be more common for many specialized procedures (notably transplants) when volume is low and support staff has less practice.

To learn more about the closure:
- read this Boston Globe piece

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