Doctor pioneers technology to detect baby heart defects after he nearly lost newborn daughter

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

A doctor who nearly lost his newborn daughter has pioneered revolutionary new technology for detecting heart defects in babies.

The heart scanner, which is already in use at a leading London hospital, allows specialists to diagnose congenital heart disease in unborn babies.

It produces a 3D computer model of unborn babies' hearts from all different angles and a MRI scan takes hundreds of photographs inside the womb.

The 2D images stitch together to offer a 3D model of the heart and its blood vessels, which can be critical in understanding what is happening with different forms of congenital heart disease.

Professor Reza Razavi's daughter almost died from an undetected heart defect. Credit: Reza Razavi

Professor Reza Razavi pioneered the technology after his own daughter, Poppy nearly died after her defect was not spotted during routine scans.

She spent a long time in critical care, but has since made a full recovery and is now preparing for her exams.

Professor Razavi led a research team in producing 3D images and hopes the technology will highlight heart defects during standard pregnancy scans.

He told ITV News: "For me it brought it home, although I look after children like this, when it happens to your own daughter, you think is there any thing we can do to help make this better and this led to the development of these technologies and Poppy's very pleased that she helped in initiating all of this."

The 3D model shows the different angles of a unborn baby's heart and helps doctors understand congenital heart disease. Credit: King's College London

The technology will help doctors better prepare for the emergency care and surgery newborns will need and support parents as their newborn undergoes surgery.

It is already in use at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust and the research team is preparing to roll the technology out to other units across the country, helping around 700 babies a year.

Melina Agathangelous' son has already benefited from the technology after she took part in Professor Razavi's trial.

Her son, Andreas, was born with a heart abnormality and the 3D scanner revealed he had a narrow aorta - the main artery from the heart.

The 3D scanner revealed Andreas Agathangelous was born with a narrow aorta and he underwent life-saving surgery.
Andreas is now a healthy young toddler following the surgery.

Within days of his birth, Andreas underwent surgery which widened the artery and potentially saved his life.

"From the moment you find out there is something wrong with your baby, you're worried, and that was very reassuring for us that we knew that they knew exactly what they had to do, what was going on with the heart," Ms Agathangelous said.

"It wasn't just something random because you can't just open a heart and then operate on it. It was really good."