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NIH and Children's National Partner in New Cardiac Intervention Suite

Washington, DC – The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, is partnering with Children’s National Medical Center to establish a new state-of-the-art facility dedicated to pediatric cardiac imaging and intervention. This collaboration brings NHLBI’s extensive experience in cardiac imaging to Children’s renowned clinical program.

“This partnership truly exemplifies the NHLBI mission,” said NHLBI Director Gary Gibbons, MD. “Working with an esteemed partner in our community, we can start translating research advances to the bedside of children across the world. Together, we may greatly reduce, or possibly even avoid, the need for invasive or potentially harmful radiation when diagnosing and treating children with heart problems.” 

The NIH/Children’s National Interventional Cardiac Magnetic Resonance (ICMR) program brings together researchers, clinicians, engineers, and physicists to provide more precise and less invasive diagnostics and treatment. The joint ICMR team’s work will translate clinically to more streamlined use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is radiation-free. The initiative seeks to enhance the speed and quality of MRI machines and reduce the need to sedate children getting an MRI; increasing the capability of MRI to take fetal images; developing better, pediatric-specific catheters for probing the heart and blood vessels; and incorporating an incubator into an MRI scanner to enable procedures on premature babies.

“The Heart Institute at Children’s National, offers the full complement of cardiology care, said Gerard Martin, MD, Co-Director, Children’s National Heart Institute. “The ICMR collaboration means patients and families now have access to the finest cardiology imaging available in the world, which will enhance diagnosis and treatment. Ultimately, we hope to perform radiation-free procedures in children who are still developing and thus particularly vulnerable. At Children’s National, we always strive to make assessment and treatment more precise and less invasive, and this partnership further advances that mission.”

Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect: almost one percent of newborns are born with a heart condition. The Heart Institute at Children’s National assesses and/or treats thousands of babies, children, and young adults each year. The Heart Institute includes a robust cardiac fetal imaging program with specialized care for newborns diagnosed in utero.

Identifying and repairing heart defects in children or infants requires overcoming unique challenges, such as working on a smaller and more delicate heart, the difficulty in having children lie still or hold their breath for imaging procedures, increased sensitivity to radiation damage from x-rays, and the need for supportive devices like incubators.

As part of the collaboration, clinical fellows from Children’s National can come to the NIH campus and learn from researchers at the NHLBI, which has a strong history of applying cardiac imaging technologies to adult populations.  For example, NHLBI research teams recently demonstrated that an MRI-guided catheter procedure can be as quick and effective as an X-ray guided procedure, and worked on a next-generation computed tomography (CT) scanner that can take ultra-fast images while reducing radiation exposure by more than 90 percent.

"This is a great opportunity to take the engineering and clinical efforts we have made in real-time MRI and apply them to diagnostic and therapeutic approaches in children,” said Robert Balaban, PhD, Scientific Director of the NHLBI intramural program. “This collaboration with Children’s National investigators will focus our efforts on important improvements in pediatric medicine, while also offering opportunities for small businesses to take new discoveries to the marketplace."

Contact:  NHLBI Office of Communications: 301-496-4236 or [email protected]
Children’s National Medical Center: Paula Darte or Emily Hartman: 202-476-4500

About the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at

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