Medical Minute 10-20: Viagra Treats Birth Defect

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

He may still be hooked up to tubes and machines, but to his mother, Daniel looks perfect. Not long ago, she thought she was going to lose him.

"He couldn't breathe, and everything was shutting down."

Daniel was born with a life-threatening problem called CDH -- congenital diaphragmatic hernia.

"The intestines go up into the chest, and that compresses on the developing lungs and pushes the heart over to the side and causes the lungs to be abnormally developed," said Brad Warner, M.D., Pediatric Surgeon.

Before, these babies were rushed into surgery. But now, doctors realize that does more harm than good, so they're finding less invasive and more unique ways to help.

"One of the ones that's really come along is actually Viagra. Viagra causes relaxation of muscle in different parts of the body, and one of those is the smooth muscle of the lungs," said Brad W. Warner, M.D.

In some babies, the little blue pill -- in liquid form -- helps improve blood flow to the lungs. A new type of ventilation strategy -- called gentle ventilation, also helps.

"Basically, the ventilator is like jiggling the baby, and every jiggle is a breath," said Brad W. Warner, M.D.

Benjamin was also born with CDH. A combination of Viagra and other meds made him strong enough to leave the intensive care unit.

"He's off the oxygen. He's down to one medication a day. He's pretty much our miracle," said Kelly Hubble, Benjamin's mom.

Babies who now have the chance to grow-up thanks to treatment with a softer approach.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:Judy Martin, Associate Director of Media Relations Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis,

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