Patients enjoy drawing on the chalkboard at Ochsner Health Center for Children

Dr. Ben Peeler:A Lifelong Approach
to Cardiac Care

Cardiac problems in infants and children are not only deeply concerning to parents and families, they’re also more common than you might expect. “Somewhere around 1 in 100 children is born with a congenital heart defect,” explains Ochsner’s Benjamin Peeler, MD, Chief of Pediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiac Surgery. “There can be a tremendous variety of defects of the heart due to the heart’s incredibly complex 3D anatomy.”

Despite the risks, the outlook for a baby born today with congenital heart disease (CHD) is better than ever. As a result of advances in medicine, nearly 90% of babies born with CHD are expected to reach adulthood. However, these patients require cardiac care throughout their lives, which has led to the emergence of a brand-new subspecialty: adult congenital cardiology.

Video: Congenital Heart Defect

Ochsner’s growing congenital heart program offers the full spectrum of care, from fetal diagnosis, to care of newborns, infants and children, all the way through treating adults with CHD. Our team includes three congenital cardiac surgeons led by Benjamin B. Peeler, MD; a large and growing group of pediatric cardiologists, including interventional cardiologists; imaging specialists; adult congenital cardiologists; pediatric anesthesiologists; pediatric intensivists and nurses; critical care cardiac specialists; and perfusionists, who operate heart-lung machines during cardiac surgery. In addition, Ochsner’s around-the-clock Patient Flow Center is capable of coordinating and dispatching transport services for critically ill cardiac patients, getting them to Ochsner quickly and safely for treatment.

85% to 90%
of babies born with congenital
heart defects are expected to
reach adulthood as a result
of advances in medicine.

For more than 40 years, parents from around the world have entrusted their children’s care to the pediatric cardiology team at Ochsner Hospital for Children. Now, we have a brand-new, 12-bed pediatric cardiac intensive care unit with state-of-the-art private rooms for each patient. “Ochsner’s status as part of a large health system enables relationships with pediatricians and pediatric cardiologists throughout the state,” Dr. Peeler says. “This allows us to offer care in a highly coordinated manner.”

The approach is delivering exceptional results. In 2018, Ochsner achieved 100% survival rates of neonatal heart surgery, child heart surgery and Norwood procedures, substantially higher than national averages, according to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Our high survival rates are the result of daily coordination among our team of expert health providers. For both children and adults with CHD, there’s no better place in the Gulf South to seek care.

survival rates of neonatal heart
surgery, child heart surgery and
Norwood procedures in 2018 –
surpassing most national peers.

One of Dr. Peeler’s young patients, Caleb Bynum, and his family experienced the full range of Ochsner’s pediatric cardiac capabilities. Born with CHD, Caleb by the age of four needed a pacemaker implanted. Subsequently, his condition rapidly worsened as he developed cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle. Caleb’s condition was so dire that he was placed at the very top of Louisiana’s transplant list. To give Caleb vital time until a human heart became available, Dr. Peeler and the Ochsner team installed a Berlin Heart, a ventricular assist device or pump that maintains blood flow in babies and small children with serious heart failure. It was an Ochsner first, and it worked perfectly until a donor heart was located and the transplant surgery was completed.

Today Caleb is thriving, and his mom Renita Bynum Dominique is filled with appreciation. “Thank you. That’s such a small word. There should be another word you can use for someone who is giving you the gift of life.”