Mark S. Bleiweis, MD, is board-certified in surgery, thoracic and cardiac surgery and congenital heart surgery. He graduated with distinction from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and earned his medical degree from the University of California at San Diego. He served his general surgery residency at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California; his thoracic surgery residency at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and his pediatric cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at the University of California San Francisco.
Since his arrival at the University of Florida in 2005, Dr. Bleiweis has been instrumental in expanding the center’s complement of pediatric cardiac specialists and making the UF Health Congenital Heart Center among the top centers in the country. Dr. Bleiweis’ cardiac team was the first in Florida to use the Berlin Heart® Ventricular Assist Device (a pediatric VAD), and the SynCardia® Total Artificial Heart. His team also was the first to use the SynCardia® Total Artificial Heart paired with the Freedom® portable driver for a pediatric patient.
Dr. Bleiweis has extensive experience in the pre- and postoperative management of newborns, including premature and low-birthweight babies. His expertise includes repairing complex, single-ventricle and valve defects, as well as treating patients who have underlying syndromes.
Dysphagia (swallowing impairment) is a common post-operative complication in infants with congenital heart disease (CHD) undermining recovery and normal growth/development. We are collaborating with Dr. Bleiweis to enroll 160 infants with CHD to 1) identify independent risk factors of postoperative dysphagia, 2) identify clinical biomarkers to detect dysphagia, 3) determine the impact of dysphagia on infants with CHD, and 4) identify predictors for attainment of full oral feeding. Enrolled participants will undergo bedside clinical biomarker testing preoperatively that includes objective measures of infant nonnutritive suck patterns and an oral mechanism exam along with bedside assessment of physiologic state, respiratory patterns, and autonomic system regulation. Following surgery, infants will undergo a Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) to assess swallowing function and vocal fold mobility. Repeat bedside clinical biomarker testing will also be performed. Blinded analyses using validated metrics of swallowing safety and efficiency will be performed to examine swallowing function. Multivariable modeling of dysphagia risk factors will produce a practical dysphagia risk stratification tool to enable accurate forecasting and personalized triaged postoperative care pathways. This work is supported by pilot funding from a Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) grant. CMN has raised funds and awareness for children’s hospitals across North America since 1983.