Growth, more sophisticated care mark 2021 at Norton Children’s Heart Institute

We now can provide all aspects of pediatric cardiology care in-house, including heart failure and transplant, interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, and adult congenital heart disease.

This has been a momentous year for Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. We’re completing our first full year officially integrated with the former UofL Pediatrics – Cardiology practice, which doubled the size of our team. We now can provide all aspects of pediatric cardiology care in-house, including heart failure and transplant, interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, and adult congenital heart disease.

The former Pediatric HeartCare Partners practice also became part of the Norton Children’s Heart Institute, not only adding two skilled pediatric cardiologists, but five Southern Indiana locations and three Louisville offices, improving access for patients and families.

We’re celebrating nearly two years in the Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, made possible through a generous donation of $2 million from Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence, along with $4 million in community support raised through the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation. It’s a beautiful facility, with 17 beds and leading-edge design and equipment. Each room has space for a family to stay overnight, with a private restroom.

We’ve also made improvements to other facilities at Norton Children’s Heart Institute. The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has been updated, as has the cardiac stepdown unit, which now has telemetry in every room — all organized around a specialized cardiac nursing station. We also have new electrophysiology and cardiac catheterization labs.

Just 1½ blocks away, the Novak Center for Children’s Health houses all the pediatric subspecialties in one building. This is great for our families. Children who see us often have other health issues. Previously, patients and their families might have to see three different subspecialists in three different buildings. Now these patients can see cardiology subspecialists and other specialists in the same location.

Another way we are trying to make the lives of our patients and their families easier is through multidisciplinary clinics. These clinics coordinate the care for patients with complex conditions. We now have multidisciplinary clinics for patients undergoing Fontan surgery and with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). We’re one of the first health care providers in the nation with a multidisciplinary clinic for MIS-C. Because all the subspecialists are in the Novak Center for Children’s Health, we’ll have the opportunity to develop more of these multidisciplinary clinics moving forward.

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To refer a patient to Norton Children’s Heart Institute, visit Norton EpicLink and choose EpicLink referral to Pediatric Cardiology or Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery.

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For our single ventricle patients, we have an around-the-clock interstage monitoring program, allowing parents to enter real-time data on smartphone or tablet apps, signaling concerns in these children during this high-risk period between surgeries — before issues become serious. This monitoring, plus 24/7 access to Norton Children’s Heart Institute nurses, substantially has decreased complications and death after discharge.

For single ventricle patients in Southern Indiana and in parts of Kentucky outside the Louisville area, we also work with families so they can go one of our Norton Children’s Heart Institute outreach clinics closer to home for one of their two follow-up visits each month.

As we grow, we are focused on safety and quality improvement. We have specialized teams that meet to coordinate care in cardiac catheterization, electrophysiology, fetal cardiology, heart failure/heart transplant, cardiac intensive care, pediatric intensive care, NICU, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), cardiac anesthesia and adult congenital heart disease.

Our adult congenital heart disease program was accredited this year as  Comprehensive Care Center by the Adult Congenital Heart Association, the first team centered in Kentucky to earn this designation. We’re proud of this recognition, which has been in the making for several years as we connected pediatric and adult subspecialties to provide the best care possible for this growing patient group.

As proud as we are with what where we are now, thanks to the integration of Norton Children’s Heart Institute and the UofL School of Medicine, we’re going to continue to add benefits to the care we offer children and adults with congenital heart disease in the months and years ahead.

Bahaaldin Alsoufi, M.D., is medical director of pediatric cardiovascular surgery at Norton Children’s Hospital.

Brian J. Holland, M.D., is chief of pediatric cardiology at Norton Children’s Heart Institute.

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