Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Scimitar Syndrome: A Discovery Highlight

If you’d told me in high school that one day, I would read abstracts from the Annals of Thoracic Surgery with the giddy delight of a 5-year-old eating an ice-cream sundae, I would have burst out laughing, and, well, I would not have believed you for even a second.

But here I am (more than two decades later), all excited over an abstract I found online from a 2009 edition of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery. The article is about a multicenter study in Italy of patients with scimitar syndrome.

Scimitar syndrome is a rare variation of partial anomalous pulmonary venous return, a congenital heart defect. And my almost-6-year-old son is one of the 1-3 in 100,000 babies who are born with scimitar syndrome, and one of the 1 in 125 babies born each year in the United States with a congenital heart defect.

I’ve learned a lot about scimitar syndrome since those first months after William’s diagnosis in March 2005. And finding the abstract today was a highlight of my discoveries.

The study included 26 patients. Most of the patients presented like my son, with symptoms including recurrent upper respiratory tract infections and pneumonia. Eighteen of the patients had an intraatrial baffle repair, while eight patients had their scimitar veins moved and re-implanted at the left atrium.

Those were the two repair options William’s brilliant pediatric heart surgeon — Mark Bleiweis at the University of Florida Congenital Heart Center — discussed with us. He said he wouldn’t make a decision about which repair to use until he saw William’s heart. Then he would figure out which would be the better solution.

Once inside William’s chest, Dr. Bleiweis thought William’s left atrium was a bit small to accommodate the right pulmonary veins, so he created an intraatrial baffle — a tunnel directing the blood flow from William’s anomalous right pulmonary veins (located near the junction of the inferior vena cava and the right atrium) into his left atrium, where it belonged.

We knew then that Dr. Bleiweis knew what he was doing, and we trusted him. Now I’ve found a study of 26 patients over a 10-year period that shows “the intraatrial baffle repair seems to have a lower incidence of postoperative complications and a better patency rate, at last follow-up, than the re-implantation of the scimitar vein onto the left atrium.”

We’ll take it.


  1. Scimitar Syndrome
    posted on: sat,nov 2010
    posted by : manuheart123
    Scimitar Syndrome is a rare congenital heart disease which is characterized by an unusual arrangement of the pulmonary veins. Scimitar syndrome is also called as the pulmonary venolobar, Halasz’s syndrome, mirror-image lung syndrome, hypogenetic lung syndrome, epibronchial right pulmonary artery syndrome and venacava bronchovascular syndrome. It occurs more commonly in females when compared to males.


  2. Our baby girl was diagnosed with this syndrome after she was born, and every time they did an MRI they found more partial left lung along side with a hole in her diaphragm. And they told us back in April when she was born that she was the first documented case in the united states, all the nurses and doctors said of all the years some of them 20+ years they have never seen this kind of problem. I wonder just how true this? she passed away 7 days later