What's New at the American Family Children's Hospital?

UW Health Services

American Family Children's Hospital, Madison, WisconsinMADISON - UW Health's American Family Children's Hospital celebrated its first birthday in fall 2008, and with it several new developments are taking place this fall at Wisconsin's state-of-the-art pediatric health care facility.


New Operating Rooms


Construction is now complete on a beautiful new surgical services unit that fills the building's entire third floor. Consisting of six operating rooms, two procedure rooms, a 30-bed pre-/post-operative unit and a 10-bed post-anesthesia care unit, this enhancement to the Children's Hospital represents a major milestone for pediatric surgery in south central Wisconsin.


"One of the most stressful experiences parents can have is when their child goes in for surgery," says UW Health pediatric surgeon Dennis P. Lund, MD, surgeon-in-chief at the American Family Children's Hospital.


"This space helps ease those anxieties. In the past, children and adults have shared the same operating room space. Now children - and only children - undergo surgery in this brand new space. The look, the feel and the mood of the space is much calmer and more child-friendly. So not only do we have doctors, nurses and staff who are specially trained to take care of children, but we have child-focused space as well."


"These operating rooms are much larger to accommodate the video and robotic equipment we use today," Lund says. "At the same time, the aesthetics provide a much warmer and calmer feel that is more appropriate for families with children. This all helps reduce stress for parents, allowing them to focus more positive energy on their child."


A Destination for High-Risk Neuroblastoma Patients


Neuroblastoma, a cancer arising from the nervous system, can appear in the chest, neck, pelvis or anywhere in the body, and is the fourth most common childhood cancer. By the time it is diagnosed, it has often spread beyond its original location, making it among the more difficult pediatric diseases to treat.


With the goal of providing care for children with high-risk forms of neuroblastoma, the American Family Children's Hospital will soon begin treating patients in a way that can enhance the quality of a child's life and improve cure rates.


The treatment is known as MIBG, named after the chemical compound meta-iodobenzylguanidine. The technique is meant to help high-risk patients for whom conventional treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgeries, have not resulted in cure. Before it is given to the patients, MIBG is attached to a form of radioactive iodine. Cancer cells then absorb the MIBG while the radioactivity, in turn, kills the cancer cells.


"MIBG is absorbed only by the neuroblastoma cells, so we are able to deliver high doses of radiation directly to the tumor to eliminate it," says Dr. Kenneth De Santes, a UW Health pediatric oncologist with the American Family Children's Hospital. "It's different from traditional radiation treatments because we're able to target both the primary tumor and areas where the cancer has spread, all while sparing normal tissue."


One challenge with the treatment is that the patient actually becomes "radioactive" for a short time, due to the high levels of radioactive material administered. Accordingly, the walls of the treatment room are entirely lined with lead. Caregivers and parents can have only minimal contact with patients for the first 24 hours.


Most facilities aren't equipped to handle the radiation safety concerns, which is why a limited number of centers are able to provide this specialized treatment.


"We knew we wanted to offer MIBG," says De Santes, "We had the luxury of planning for the treatment room at the time the Children's Hospital was being built."


Special monitors enable nurses to observe patients from the nurses' station. A closed-circuit television and audio/visual system allow parents to see and communicate with their child. There is even a DVD and gaming system to provide patients entertainment, and next door is a small room where parents can stay.


The hospital will be one of only five centers in the U.S. offering this form of treatment to children, so there are usually waiting lists for MIBG treatment. "MIBG may eventually be tested in the early stages of treatment for high-risk neuroblastoma. If that becomes the case, then the need for MIBG treatment facilities will increase significantly.


The American Family Children's Hospital will be at the forefront and ready to meet the needs of our patients," says De Santes.


The MIBG room is expected to open later in 2009.