Clemson professor working to reduce deaths among infants with heart condition

Richard Figliola

Approximately 1,500 babies are born each year in the U.S. with an abnormal single ventricle heart condition. The corrective process, known as the Fontan circulation, involves three stages of surgery during the first few years of life to enable the heart to function with only one ventricle. The specific corrective process depends on several factors, including the heart’s development as the child grows, making it difficult for doctors to monitor progress and predict the next stage of treatment or the long-term effect of such treatments. The mortality rate is high due to the complexity of the surgery and a physician’s skill-set/experience needed to succeed.

Richard Figliola, professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering, is working to reduce this high mortality rate and improve available information used in the surgical decision made by physicians.

He and a team of physicians and engineering researchers spanning two continents have been awarded a $6 million award from the Leducq Foundation to develop 3-D modeling of the three surgical stages of single ventricle physiology. These models, which will be shared on a global network, will provide surgeons various predictive tools that they can use for better clinical bedside decisions.

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