Soon after a routine 20-week ultrasound, Jessie Taormina, 34, then a nurse at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn, learned with her husband, Nicolo, that their baby had a rare congenital condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Dubbed “half a heart syndrome,” it leaves the left side of the heart so underdeveloped that it struggles to pump blood to the rest of the body.
Thirty years ago, the survival rate of the approximately 960 babies born in the United States annually with HLHS was less than 5 percent. Today, thanks to a series of 3 reconstructive surgeries, the 5-year survival rate has increased to 70 percent, with 90 percent long-term survival of children who reach their 1st birthday.
Jessie was deeply relieved to learn that NYU Langone Health has one of the most successful programs in the country for this condition, led by one of the top pediatric cardiac surgeons. Ralph S. Mosca, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiac Surgery and co-director of the Pediatric Congenital Heart Program, helped define the modern-day surgical standard of care in the 1990s.
The cardiac surgery program he heads at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, which treats the most complex forms of congenital heart disease and performs nearly 250 operations annually, has the highest risk-adjusted survival rate of any hospital in New York State for pediatric patients. That impressive outcome report was recently issued by the state’s Department of Health, which takes into account the complexity of care at the time of surgery, as well as the number of children treated for the condition at the institution.
In addition, Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital outperforms the national average for clinical outcomes, complication rates, and length of hospital stay, according to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS). The latest data from STS shows that NYU Langone’s survival rates for pediatric cardiac surgery exceed the national average in several categories. The institution’s overall survival rate is 99 percent, compared with a national rate of 97.2 percent. For neonates, the survival rate is 96.2 percent, compared with a national average of 92 percent. For babies up to age 1, the survival rate is 99.5 percent, compared with a national average of 97.4 percent.
In September 2018, Sammie Taormina became one of those success stories. Seventeen days after he was born at Tisch Hospital, Sammie had his first operation. It went smoothly, as did the second surgery in March 2019 and the third last September. Once Sammie fully recovered, he was cleared to do all the climbing, running, and jumping he wished. Today, the Taorminas look like any other relaxed young family, with a chubby-cheeked toddler who, along with his new baby brother, Russell, charm everyone they meet.