Children's specialist excited about new heart lab

Posted 04 Oct 2016
Christian Turner, paediatric cardiologist and electrophysiologist, holds a catheter

Six new interventional laboratories are part of the Westmead Redevelopment. They will benefit both children and adults and are exciting news for cardiac specialists across the Westmead precinct.

Christian Turner is a paediatric cardiologist and electrophysiology (EP) specialist. He is focussed on paediatric arrhythmias; working with children with heart rhythm issues. He has worked at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead for the past 5 years as a consultant and started his career at Westmead—first in cardiology, then paediatric cardiology before specialising in EP.

Christian’s typical week involves working at both hospitals and seeing clinic patients, including children born with holes in their heart or heart rhythm issues. Some have pacemakers or implantable defibrillators—the defibrillators can shock a heart back into a normal rhythm if it goes too fast. Each week he performs a number of procedures fixing children’s heart rhythm problems using catheters (Christian holds a catheter in the photo above).

Catheters, when used for heart procedures, are an investigative tool used during surgery. A long thin tube is inserted into the veins in the groin and threaded up to the heart. Dye can be injected into the heart via the tube, take measurements like blood pressure, and take blood samples. Interventional procedures can also be undertaken via catheters, like closing holes in the heart.

The catheters used for heart rhythm procedures have electrodes that can measure the electrical conduction in the heart. Christian inserts five on average in each procedure. As a result he can diagnose the type of heart rhythm issue that is occurring and then usually fix the issue by burning or freezing the abnormal part of the heart.

Performing catheter procedures requires dedicated spaces, informally known as ‘cath labs’. At the moment, cardilologists from both The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Westmead Hospital use an EP lab within Westmead Hospital. Six new interventional labs and high-tech suites are planned for the central acute services building as part of the new operating theatre floor.

Christian said, “With electrophysiological work you need a lot of high-tech equipment that is extremely expensive. You also need to have highly skilled staff that can use this equipment. In the new building, we will be able to undertake more procedures and we'll have specialist rooms with access to the most cutting-edge equipment. We can train upcoming experts (doctors, nurses and highly specialised technicians) for both hospitals and have a collaborative interchange of ideas between adult and paediatric cardiologists.”

Christian is a member of a number of Westmead Redevelopment project user groups (PUGs) and is involved in planning for the central acute services building.

He continued, “I’ve shared my insights for the design of the labs and other areas, so that the spaces can be as child and family friendly. The patient journey will be smoother and there will be spaces for loved ones to be with patients before and after surgery.”

“There is a huge amount of information and knowledge-sharing already happening between both hospitals. The existing interventional cardiology service at Westmead Hospital is already a well-renowned unit. The new interventional cardiology lab will be part of a world-leading surgery and interventional centre—the largest in Australia.”

Professor Rob Denniss, Head of Cardiology at Westmead Hospital, said, “Christian Turner is a great example of the brilliant minds working at Westmead. There are only 5 paediatric cardiologists in Australia that do what he does. The new EP lab is a great collaboration between electrophysiology units of both hospitals and it will help us to recruit and train the best of the best.

Related information

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