The Heart Center uses state-of-the-art imaging technology to support research that improves how we understand and treat childhood heart problems.

For example, we were the first to use 3-D echocardiography to measure and evaluate children’s aortas. Our researchers proved this is a more accurate way to measure the size of a child’s aorta. This helps doctors understand how well a child’s heart carries blood to the body and allows them to tailor treatment to a child’s needs.

Our research includes the following areas.

Helping Researchers Analyze New Treatments

Led by Dr. Brian Soriano, the Heart Center’s Core Lab helps researchers understand how new treatments affect heart function. The Core Lab is one of a handful of labs with the technology and expertise to analyze large numbers of ultrasounds, computed tomography (CT) scans and other images and evaluate what they reveal about heart function. The lab collects and analyzes these images for studies led by Seattle Children’s and by many other hospitals and institutions.

For example, the lab supports a study by Dr. Michael Portman that investigates a new medicine (drug trial) for patients with Kawasaki disease. The medicine could help keep those patients’ heart arteries open. Patients who participate in the study get several echocardiograms. The Core Lab examines these images to see if there are any changes in the arteries. This helps show if the medicine is effective.

Using Strain Imaging to Understand Heart Conditions

Our heart doctors use a new ultrasound process called strain imaging. It gives doctors a clearer, more detailed view of subtle changes in heart function. This technology helps us understand how heart problems and treatments affect the heart muscle. Our researchers use strain imaging to improve our understanding of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, tetralogy of Fallot and many other conditions.

Defining What a Typical Heart Looks Like

Seattle Children’s is one of a select group of hospitals and research centers participating in the Pediatric Heart Network (PHN), which studies childhood heart problems. One of the PHN’s projects aims to define and quantify what a typical heart looks like. This is difficult because hearts come in many different shapes and sizes. Pinpointing a typical range of heart shape, size and function will give doctors a baseline that makes it easier to know when a child’s heart is truly unusual. This could improve how doctors diagnose and treat heart conditions.