Looking beyond survival

Research team builds Stollery’s enviable reputation for pediatric cardiology

The survival rate for children treated for single ventricle heart defects at the Stollery Children’s Hospital is among the highest in North America. 

Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Andrew Mackie is proud of his team’s record and its contribution to the enviable reputation of the Stollery’s pediatric cardiac program. The hospital has one of the highest survival rates for complex pediatric cardiac surgeries, and a shorter than average hospital stay compared to other North American centres. Better survival rates mean more patients who live past the teen years.

“We are seeing more children with severe forms of congenital heart disease survive to adolescence and adulthood because of improvements in care over the past 10 to 15 years,” notes Mackie, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta. “We need to look beyond survival now.”

Mackie’s Stollery Single Ventricle Outcomes team is one of four research teams, which have each received $200,000 in support over two years as part of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute’s research capacity building award. The program helps to support research programs that are directly relevant to treatment and care at the Stollery and are likely to attract large-scale future funding.

Mackie’s award brought the diverse team (of six cardiologists, two cardiac surgeons, a nursing PhD and a physiologist) together to come up with a comprehensive approach to studying single ventricle heart disease and outcomes at the Stollery. “It motivated us to sit down and brainstorm research projects that would address the most relevant challenges facing these children,” says Mackie. Less than a year into the program, the team has already identified its research priorities and begun work on a number of projects with the help of a full-time research Mackie and research coordinator. These include a number of studies into the exercise capabilities of children with single ventricle heart disease in order to develop a physical rehabilitation program at the Stollery.

Treatment for these heart defects has advanced tremendously over the past 30 years when children had no hope of survival. The lives of the survivors are far from easy, however, as they struggle with developmental and other health difficulties, the stress of uncertain futures and the need for ongoing care. “Our ultimate goal is to move the research forward to make a real difference in the quality of life and overall functioning of the children and families in our care,” explains Dr. Jennifer Conway, a member of Mackie’s team and a pediatric cardiologist at the Stollery.


The research of the Stollery Single Ventricle Outcomes team has been funded by the generous support of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation through WCHRI.