September 21, 2020
During a 22-week prenatal ultrasound, Julie Peteritas was told that her baby’s heart was pumping too fast—over 200 beats per minute. She began twice weekly ultrasounds to monitor the heartbeat and was referred to a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), who confirmed that baby Elliot had a type of arrhythmia called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).
If left untreated, SVT can cause a developing baby to go into congestive heart failure before birth. In severe cases, the condition can be fatal.
A Valuable Partnership with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Thanks to a collaborative agreement between Lancaster General Health and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, pediatric cardiologists from CHOP provide on-site care at Lancaster General Hospital and in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Women & Babies Hospital.
For the rest of her pregnancy, Julie took medication to slow Elliot’s heart rate to a safe level, and she remained closely monitored by doctors from both hospitals. Since the SVT posed a significant cardiac risk in her baby, Julie’s doctors recommended a c-section at 37 weeks.
Elliot was immediately placed in the NICU at Women & Babies Hospital, where his care was managed by an experienced team of neonatologists and a cardiologist until he was stable enough to go home.
Alert to Signs of Danger
While Elliot’s heart rate was in the normal range at birth and during the four days he was monitored in the NICU, his doctors wanted him to remain under close watch. Julie is a nurse, so upon Elliot’s release, she was instructed to check his heart rate several times a day with a stethoscope and told what to watch for.
After a week at home, Elliot’s heart rate rose above 200 beats per minute and stayed high for an hour—one of the danger signs Julie and Mark had been watching for. As directed, they brought Elliot to CHOP, where he remained for three weeks.
His diagnosis was revised to persistent junctional reciprocating tachycardia (PJRT), a rare form of SVT. PJRT can be easy to miss until symptoms become more pronounced, including heart failure. With treatment, the heart rate can be stabilized until the child is older. In most cases, the heart rate slows with age and the child grows out of the condition.
Elliot’s heart rate was stabilized using a combination of medications, and he was released to his parents’ care at home. Doctors showed Julie and Mark how to monitor their baby with monthly electrocardiogram (EKG) tests at home, with results sent to CHOP for analysis. They were also told to continue checking Elliot’s heartbeat several times a day with a stethoscope.
A Childhood with No Limits
When he was six months old, Elliot’s doctors began to wean him off his medication. Today, he is a happy little boy with no limitations, who enjoys helping his parents around the house and reading books.
Elliot continues to see CHOP cardiologists for regular follow up visits at LG Health’s Suburban Pavilion. Over the next few years, his medical team will continue to work with his parents to monitor his heart rate and determine whether additional treatment is needed.
“We thank the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Lancaster General Health, because without them, who knows where Elliot would be at this point,” Julie said.