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Babies fighting for their lives don’t have time for anything less than seamless cooperation.

Children born with an underdeveloped ventricle face the very real – and very sad – possibility of living only days or weeks. Just as alarming, it is not that rare. It happens thousands of times a year around the world.

Typically, these infants undergo three stages of corrective surgery, known as the Fontan Circulation Surgery. The goal is to enable the heart to function with only two chambers, instead of the usual four. The challenge is that each child is different. That makes it difficult to predict the severity of the anatomic abnormalities, as well as the circulatory changes that develop between each operation.

To put a complex problem as simply as possible, physicians must choose the most appropriate treatment for each individual child. There are no “cookie-cutter” answers. There is no time to waste.

Dr. Richard Figliola, Clemson professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering, is co-leader of an interdisciplinary, international team created to try and mitigate this life-or-death conundrum.

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Ranking our bioengineering graduate program holds among public national universities, per U.S. News & World Report, 2012.

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