Unique ICU Offers Specialized Care for Newborns with Heart Disease

When the Vivian and Seymour Milstein Family Infant Cardiac Unit opened at NewYork-Presbyterian’s Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in September, it became the first neonatal cardiac intensive care unit in the United States.

The idea for the 17-bed unit arose five years ago, says Richard Polin, MD, director of neonatology and the William T. Speck Professor of Pediatrics. Dr. Polin hired Ganga Krishnamurthy, MD, a graduate of the neonatal perinatal medicine program at CUMC and now the Garrett Isaac Neubauer Associate Professor of Pediatrics at CUMC, as medical director of the new unit. Dr. Krishnamurthy also trained in cardiac intensive care at Boston Children’s Hospital. 

“We saw the need for a new unit as the numbers of infants with congenital heart disease increased,” Dr. Polin says. Neonates with heart disease are at a higher risk of mortality after cardiac surgery than children with most other surgical problems.

The new unit—with five single beds, five double-bed pods, and two isolation rooms—is devoted entirely to infants with complex heart disease and is staffed with individuals who have special expertise in cardiac physiology and intensive care.

“It’s not just the doctors who staff the unit,” Dr. Polin says. “It’s also nurses and nurse practitioners who have expertise in newborn infants with cardiac disease.”

Before the unit opened, babies born with congenital heart disease were admitted to the general neonatal intensive care unit at NYP/CUMC. In most other hospitals, a critically ill infant can be placed right next to an adult in the ICU, which clearly is not ideal.

“This newly dedicated unit fosters an advanced, multidisciplinary approach to providing specialized neonatal cardiac intensive care,” says Dr. Krishnamurthy. “It is an incredible advance for infants with severe congenital heart disease.”

The new unit was made possible by a $5 million gift from the grandchildren of Vivian Milstein and the late Seymour Milstein. “We came together to continue our family’s legacy of supporting the hospital,” says Toby Milstein. “It means so much to us to honor our grandparents by helping to provide the very best heart care to the next generation of patients.”

Jeff Ballinger