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Paediatric Cardiac Surgery and Cardiology

Research Portfolio Summary November 2014

Leading research to improve care for children born with heart defects in the future

As well as providing specialist care for children with complex congenital heart defects Bristol is also home to a large team of clinicians carrying out world class research into congenital heart disease.

Over several decades these clinicians have built up a well-respected research department which works closely with the University of Bristol and academic and commercial research establishments across the UK. In fact the close proximity of the University means that clinicians and academics are able to work especially closely together in Bristol, sharing expertise and linking up the work being done in research laboratories and the care being delivered on the wards.  

Our department is one of the most research-active in the UK, with links to the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Imperial College London, University College London, Heidelberg, Barcelona and California amongst others.

Our researchers are currently carrying out a range of unique research projects in order to enhance the profession's understanding of congenital heart diseases and drive forward innovations in care and treatment for children born with the condition in the future. Below we have included a short summary of some of our most exciting projects.

Reducing damage to organs during open heart surgery - Professor Massimo Caputo - Cardiac Surgery

When children undergo open heart surgery to repair heart abnormalities that starve the body of oxygen, there is unfortunately always a danger that their organs and brain could be affected when they begin to receive their oxygen from a heart-lung bypass machine. This is the process of replacing the heart and lungs with a mechanical device during cardiac surgery and plays an essential part in the operation.

Research carried out by our unit in conjunction with the Bristol Heart Institute last year found that by controlling the amount of oxygen a child receives at the beginning of surgery, the impact on the body's organs is reduced. We are now looking at ways of improving the heart function during heart surgery in order to reduce the time a patient spends recovering on the intensive care unit.

More information about this research can be found here:

Improving treatments for Pulmonary Hypertension - Professor Robert Tulloh - Cardiology

Pulmonary Hypertension (high lung artery pressure) is a rare disease that can affect children who are born with structural heart problems. The disease leads to extra stress being placed on the right pumping chamber (right ventricle) and whilst some people can cope with this others cannot. At the moment, there are no medicines to help such patients with the pumping function of the right ventricle. Using the laboratory based research and also with the help of children and adults with Pulmonary Hypertension, we are studying the muscles and genes and hope to be able to produce customised therapies in the next few years.

More information about this research can be found here:

Improving the understanding of Kawasaki Disease - Professor Robert Tulloh

As a rare condition that can affect the hearts of small babies after an infection, we are running a national survey to learn more about this condition to learn about this disease for the first time - the first time this has been attempted. We are studying how different genes lead to different complications in young children which can result in damage to their coronary arteries and lead to long-term consequences. By improving our understanding of how the disease works in this way we hope to improve treatment of the disease for children in the future. 

More information about this research can be found here:

New ways to treat Hypertension - Professor Andy Wolf - Anaesthesia

High blood pressure commonly affects adults, but it can also start in young children. Our researchers are looking at ways of measuring this more accurately and new ways to treat it in children. This work will lead to long term benefits in our adult population and may prevent some of the damage that high blood pressure can cause.

More information about this research can be found here:

The role of genes and development of heart disease - Professor Ruth Newbury-Ecob

Our genetic make-up plays an important role in determining how our bodies react to different conditions, including how we develop diseases that affect the heart and lungs. Understanding the role genes play is fundamental to finding cures or treatments for congenital heart disease in the future. We have discovered new genes which control the way that the heart and lungs work in the body in health and disease.

More information about this research can be found here: