Clinical Focus

  • Pediatric Critical Care Medicine

Academic Appointments

Professional Education

  • Medical Education: UC San Diego Office of the Registrar (2007) CA
  • Residency: University of California, San Diego (2011) CA
  • Board Certification: American Board of Pediatrics, Pediatrics (2011)
  • Fellowship: Stanford University (2014) CA
  • Board Certification: American Board of Pediatrics, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine (2014)
  • Advanced Fellowship, Stanford University, Pediatric Cardiovascular Critical Care (2015)

All Publications

  • Clinical approach to mechanical circulatory support in the transplant patient from the Pediatric Heart Transplant Society. Pediatric transplantation Bearl, D. W., Jeewa, A., Auerbach, S. R., Azeka, E., Phelps, C., Sacks, L. D., Rosenthal, D., Conway, J. 2022; 26 (8): e14391


    The use of mechanical circulatory support (MCS) for pediatric patients who have undergone heart transplant has grown rapidly in the past decade. This includes support in the immediate post-transplant period and "rescue" therapy for patient later in their transplant course. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) remains a standard modality of support for intraoperative concerns and for acute decompensation in the immediate post-transplant period. However, both pulsatile and continuous flow ventricular assist devices (VADs) have been used with increasing success in transplant patients for longer durations of support. Centers participating in the Pediatric Heart Transplant Society (PHTS) were queried to provide their internal protocols and rationale for mechanical circulatory support following heart transplant. These protocols coupled with evidence-based literature were used to provide the following description of clinical approaches to MCS in the transplant patient highlighting areas of both broad consensus and significant practice variation.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/petr.14391

    View details for PubMedID 36377328

  • Clinical approach to vasoplegia in the transplant patient from the Pediatric Heart Transplant Society. Pediatric transplantation Desphpande, S. R., Bearl, D. W., Eghtesady, P., Henderson, H. T., Auerbach, S., Jeewa, A., Bansal, N., Amdani, S., Richmond, M. E., Sacks, L. D., Shih, R., Townsend, M., Conway, J. 2022; 26 (8): e14392


    This manuscript outlines a clinical approach to vasoplegia incorporating the current state of knowledge regarding vasoplegia in pediatric patients immediately post-transplant and to identify modifiable factors both pre- and post-transplant that may reduce post-operative morbidity, end-organ dysfunction, and mortality. Centers participating in the Pediatric Heart Transplant Society (PHTS) were asked to provide their internal protocols and rationale for vasoplegia management, and applicable adult and pediatric data were reviewed. The authors synthesized the above protocols and literature into the following description of clinical approaches to vasoplegia highlighting areas of both broad consensus and of significant practice variation.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/petr.14392

    View details for PubMedID 36377326

  • The development and efficacy of a paediatric cardiology fellowship online preparatory course. Cardiology in the young Motonaga, K. S., Sacks, L., Olson, I., Balasubramanian, S., Chen, S., Peng, L., Feinstein, J. A., Silverman, N. H., Hanley, F. L., Axelrod, D. M., Krawczeski, C. D., Arunamata, A., Kwiatkowski, D. M., Ceresnak, S. R. 2022: 1-6


    BACKGROUND: The transition from residency to paediatric cardiology fellowship is challenging due to the new knowledge and technical skills required. Online learning can be an effective didactic modality that can be widely accessed by trainees. We sought to evaluate the effectiveness of a paediatric cardiology Fellowship Online Preparatory Course prior to the start of fellowship.METHODS: The Online Preparatory Course contained 18 online learning modules covering basic concepts in anatomy, auscultation, echocardiography, catheterisation, cardiovascular intensive care, electrophysiology, pulmonary hypertension, heart failure, and cardiac surgery. Each online learning module included an instructional video with pre-and post-video tests. Participants completed pre- and post-Online Preparatory Course knowledge-based exams and surveys. Pre- and post-Online Preparatory Course survey and knowledge-based examination results were compared via Wilcoxon sign and paired t-tests.RESULTS: 151 incoming paediatric cardiology fellows from programmes across the USA participated in the 3 months prior to starting fellowship training between 2017 and 2019. There was significant improvement between pre- and post-video test scores for all 18 online learning modules. There was also significant improvement between pre- and post-Online Preparatory Course exam scores (PRE 43.6 ± 11% versus POST 60.3 ± 10%, p < 0.001). Comparing pre- and post-Online Preparatory Course surveys, there was a statistically significant improvement in the participants' comfort level in 35 of 36 (97%) assessment areas. Nearly all participants (98%) agreed or strongly agreed that the Online Preparatory Course was a valuable learning experience and helped alleviate some anxieties (77% agreed or strongly agreed) related to starting fellowship.CONCLUSION: An Online Preparatory Course prior to starting fellowship can provide a foundation of knowledge, decrease anxiety, and serve as an effective educational springboard for paediatric cardiology fellows.

    View details for DOI 10.1017/S1047951122003626

    View details for PubMedID 36440543

  • Role of Texting as a Source of Cognitive Burden in a Pediatric Cardiovascular ICU. Hospital pediatrics Han, B., Gal, D. B., Mafla, M., Sacks, L. D., Singh, A. T., Shin, A. Y. 2021


    OBJECTIVES: To characterize frontline provider perception of clinical text messaging and quantify clinical texting data in a pediatric cardiovascular ICU (CICU).METHODS: This is a mixed-methods, retrospective single center study. A survey of frontline CICU providers (pediatric fellows, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants) was conducted to assess attitudes characterizing text messaging on cognitive burden. Text messaging data were abstracted and quantified between January 29, 2020, and April 18, 2020, and the patterns of text messages were analyzed per shift and by provider.RESULTS: The survey was completed by 33 of 39 providers (85%). Out of responders, 78% indicated that clinical text messaging frequently or very frequently disrupts critical thinking and workflow. They also felt that the burden of messages was worse during the night shift. Through abstraction, 31926 text messages were identified. A median of 15 (interquartile range: 12-19) messages per hour were received. A median of 5 messages were received per hour per provider during the day shift and 6 during the night shift. From the entire study period, there were total 2 hours of high-frequency texting (≥15 texts per hour) during the day shift and 68 hours during the night shift.CONCLUSION: In our study, providers in the CICU received a large number of texts with a disproportionate burden during the night shift. Text messages are a potential source of cognitive overload for providers. Optimization of text messaging may be needed to mitigate cognitive burden for frontline providers.

    View details for DOI 10.1542/hpeds.2021-005869

    View details for PubMedID 34497133

  • Compassionate Deactivation of Pediatric Ventricular Assist Devices: A Review of 14 Cases. Journal of pain and symptom management Hollander, S. A., Kaufman, B. D., Bui, C. n., Gregori, B. n., Murray, J. M., Sacks, L. n., Ryan, K. R., Ma, M. n., Rosenthal, D. N., Char, D. n. 2021


    Compassionate deactivation (CD) of ventricular assist device (VAD) support is a recognized option for children when the burden of therapy outweighs the benefits.To describe the prevalence, indications, and outcomes of CD of children supported by VADs at the end of life.Review of cases of CD at our institution between 2011-2020. To distinguish CD from other situations where VAD support is discontinued, patients were excluded from the study if they died during resuscitation (including ECMO), experienced brain or circulatory death prior to deactivation, or experienced a non-survivable brain injury likely to result in imminent death regardless of VAD status.Of 24 deaths on VAD, 14 (58%) were CD. Median age was 5.7 (IQR 0.6, 11.6) years; 6 (43%) had congenital heart disease; 4 (29%) were on a device that can be used outside of the hospital. CD occurred after 40 (IQR: 26, 75) days of support; none while active transplant candidates. CD discussions were initiated by the caregiver in 6 (43%) cases, with the remainder initiated by a medical provider. Reasons for CD were multifactorial, including end-organ injury, infection, and stroke. CD occurred with endotracheal extubation and/or discontinuation of inotropes in 12 (86%) cases, and death occurred within 10 (IQR: 4, 23) minutes of CD.CD is the mode of death in more than half of our VAD non-survivors and is pursued for reasons primarily related to noncardiac events. Caregivers and providers both initiate CD discussions. Ventilatory and inotropic support is often withdrawn at time of CD with ensuing death.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2021.01.125

    View details for PubMedID 33910026

  • Use of Prospective Audit and Feedback to Reduce Antibiotic Exposure in a Pediatric Cardiac ICU. Pediatric critical care medicine : a journal of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies Schwenk, H. T., Kruger, J. F., Sacks, L. D., Wood, M. S., Qureshi, L., Bio, L. L. 2020


    OBJECTIVES: We sought to determine whether a prospective audit and feedback intervention decreased antibiotic utilization in a pediatric cardiac ICU and to describe the characteristics of prospective audit and feedback audits and recommendations.DESIGN: Before-after study.SETTING: Pediatric cardiac ICU of a freestanding children's hospital.PATIENTS: All patients admitted to the cardiac ICU.INTERVENTIONS: A prospective audit and feedback program was established in our hospital's pediatric cardiac ICU on December 7, 2015. The antimicrobial stewardship program audited IV antibiotics, communicated prospective audit and feedback recommendations to the cardiac ICU, and regularly reviewed recommendation adherence. Mean monthly antibiotic utilization 18 months before ("preprospective audit and feedback"; from June 1, 2014 to November 30, 2015) and 24 months after ("prospective audit and feedback"; from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2017) prospective audit and feedback implementation was compared. Antibiotic audit data during the prospective audit and feedback period were reviewed to capture the characteristics of prospective audit and feedback audits, recommendations, and adherence.MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Mean cardiac ICU IV antibiotic use decreased 20% (701 vs 880 days of therapy per 1,000 patient days, p = 0.001) during the prospective audit and feedback period compared with the preprospective audit and feedback period. There was no difference in mean cardiac ICU length of stay (p = 0.573), mean hospital length of stay (p = 0.722), or the rate of discharge due to death (p = 0.541). There were 988 antibiotic audits and 370 prospective audit and feedback recommendations (37% recommendation rate) during the study period. The most commonly audited antibiotic category was broad-spectrum gram-negative agents and the most common indication for use was sepsis. Broad-spectrum gram-positive agents were more likely to be associated with a recommendation.CONCLUSIONS: There was a significant reduction in antibiotic use following implementation of a prospective audit and feedback program in our pediatric cardiac ICU. Over one-third of antibiotics audited in our cardiac ICU were associated with a prospective audit and feedback recommendation, revealing important targets for future antimicrobial stewardship efforts in this population.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/PCC.0000000000002608

    View details for PubMedID 33258575

  • The Stanford acute heart failure symptom score for patients hospitalized with heart failure. The Journal of heart and lung transplantation : the official publication of the International Society for Heart Transplantation Almond, C. S., Chen, S., Dykes, J. C., Kwong, J., Burstein, D. S., Rosenthal, D. N., Kipps, A. K., Teuteberg, J., Murray, J. M., Kaufman, B. D., Hollander, S. A., Profita, E., Yarlagadda, V. Y., Sacks, L. D., Chen, C. 2020


    BACKGROUND: Currently, there are no simple tools to evaluate the acute heart failure (HF) symptom severity in children hospitalized with acute decompensated HF (ADHF). We sought to develop an inpatient HF score (HFS) that could be used as a clinical tool and for clinical trials.METHODS: Pediatric HF clinicians at Stanford reviewed the limitations of existing HFSs, which include lack of calibration to the inpatient setting, omission of gastrointestinal symptoms, need for multiple age-based tools, and scores that prioritize treatment intensity over patient symptoms. To address these, we developed an acute HFS corresponding to the 3 cardinal symptoms of HF: difficulty with breathing, feeding, and activity. The score was iteratively improved over a 3-year pilot phase until no further changes were made. The inter-rater reliability (IRR) across a range of providers was assessed using the final version. Peak HFSs were analyzed against mortality and length of stay (LOS) for all pediatric HF discharges between July and October 2019.RESULTS: The final HFS was a 4-point ordinal severity score for each of the 3 symptom domains (total score 0-12). Among clinicians who scored 12 inpatients with ADHF simultaneously, the intraclass correlation (ICC) was 0.94 (respiratory ICC = 0.89, feeding ICC = 0.85, and activity ICC = 0.80). Score trajectory reflected our clinical impression of patient response to HF therapies across a range of HF syndromes including 1- and 2-ventricle heart disease and reduced or preserved ejection fraction. Among the 28 patients hospitalized during a 3-months period (N = 28), quartiles of peak score were associated with LOS (p < 0.01) and in-hospital mortality (p < 0.01): HFS 0 to 3 (median LOS of 5 days and mortality of 0%), HFS 4 to 6 (median LOS of 18 days and mortality of 0%), HFS 5 to 9 (median LOS of 29 days and mortality of 23%), and HFS 10 to 12 (median LOS of 121 days and mortality of 50%).CONCLUSION: This simple acute HFS may be a useful tool to quantify and monitor day-to-day HF symptoms in children hospitalized with ADHF regardless of etiology or age group. The score has excellent IRR across provider levels and is associated with major hospital outcomes supporting its clinical validity. Validation in a multicenter cohort is warranted.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.healun.2020.08.002

    View details for PubMedID 33032871

  • Integration of Pediatric Palliative Care Into Cardiac Intensive Care: A Champion-Based Model. Pediatrics Moynihan, K. M., Snaman, J. M., Kaye, E. C., Morrison, W. E., DeWitt, A. G., Sacks, L. D., Thompson, J. L., Hwang, J. M., Bailey, V., Lafond, D. A., Wolfe, J., Blume, E. D. 2019


    Integration of pediatric palliative care (PPC) into management of children with serious illness and their families is endorsed as the standard of care. Despite this, timely referral to and integration of PPC into the traditionally cure-oriented cardiac ICU (CICU) remains variable. Despite dramatic declines in mortality in pediatric cardiac disease, key challenges confront the CICU community. Given increasing comorbidities, technological dependence, lengthy recurrent hospitalizations, and interventions risking significant morbidity, many patients in the CICU would benefit from PPC involvement across the illness trajectory. Current PPC delivery models have inherent disadvantages, insufficiently address the unique aspects of the CICU setting, place significant burden on subspecialty PPC teams, and fail to use CICU clinician skill sets. We therefore propose a novel conceptual framework for PPC-CICU integration based on literature review and expert interdisciplinary, multi-institutional consensus-building. This model uses interdisciplinary CICU-based champions who receive additional PPC training through courses and subspecialty rotations. PPC champions strengthen CICU PPC provision by (1) leading PPC-specific educational training of CICU staff; (2) liaising between CICU and PPC, improving use of support staff and encouraging earlier subspecialty PPC involvement in complex patients' management; and (3) developing and implementing quality improvement initiatives and CICU-specific PPC protocols. Our PPC-CICU integration model is designed for adaptability within institutional, cultural, financial, and logistic constraints, with potential applications in other pediatric settings, including ICUs. Although the PPC champion framework offers several unique advantages, barriers to implementation are anticipated and additional research is needed to investigate the model's feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy.

    View details for DOI 10.1542/peds.2019-0160

    View details for PubMedID 31366685

  • Vasoplegia after pediatric cardiac transplantation in patients supported with a continuous flow ventricular assist device JOURNAL OF THORACIC AND CARDIOVASCULAR SURGERY Sacks, L. D., Hollander, S. A., Zhang, Y., Ryan, K. R., Ford, M. A., Maeda, K., Murray, J. M., Almond, C. S., Kwiatkowski, D. M. 2019; 157 (6): 2433–40
  • Vasoplegia after pediatric cardiac transplantation in patients supported with a continuous flow ventricular assist device. The Journal of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery Sacks, L. D., Hollander, S. A., Zhang, Y., Ryan, K. R., Ford, M. A., Maeda, K., Murray, J. M., Almond, C. S., Kwiatkowski, D. M. 2019


    OBJECTIVE: To determine the association between continuous flow ventricular assist devices and the incidence of vasoplegia following orthotopic heart transplant in children. Moreover, to propose a novel clinical definition of vasoplegia for use in pediatric populations.METHODS: This is a single-center, retrospective cohort study set in the cardiovascular intensive care unit of a tertiary children's hospital. All patients aged 3years and older who underwent orthotopic heart transplant at Stanford Universitybetween April 1, 2014, and July 31, 2017, were included. Vasoplegia was defined by the use of vasoconstrictive medication, diastolic hypotension, preserved systolic heart function, and absence of infection or right atrial pressure or central venous pressure <5mm Hg.RESULTS: Of 44 eligible patients, 21 were supported using a continuous flow ventricular assist device. Following heart transplant, 14 patients (32%) developed vasoplegia by the study definition. Development of vasoplegia was associated with pretransplant use of a continuous flow ventricular assist device (52% vs 13%) with a relative risk of 4.02 (95% confidence interval, 1.30-12.45; P=.009). No other variables were predictive of vasoplegia in univariable analysis. Presence of vasoplegia was not associated with adverse outcomes, although there were trends towards higher incidence of acute kidney injury and increased length of hospital stays.CONCLUSIONS: Children receiving continuous flow ventricular assist device support are at increased risk for vasoplegia following orthotopic heart transplant, using a novel definition of vasoplegia. Anticipation of this complication will allow for prompt intervention, thereby minimizing hemodynamic instability and impact on patient outcomes.

    View details for PubMedID 30929985

  • Virtual reality in pediatric cardiology: hype or hope for the future? Current opinion in cardiology Sacks, L. D., Axelrod, D. M. 2019


    In the field of pediatric cardiology, a sub-specialty that relies on an understanding of complex three-dimensional structures, virtual reality technology may represent a new and exciting tool for both practitioners and patients. Here, the current medical and surgical applications of virtual reality are reviewed and the potential for future applications explored.Multiple centers have begun to develop software designed to bring virtual reality technology to bear on congenital heart disease. These efforts have focused on surgical preparation, on education of medical providers, and on preparation of patients and their family members for cardiac interventions. Though relatively little statistical evidence for benefit has been generated to date, those studies currently available suggest that virtual reality may provide a significant benefit in all three of these aspects of medical care.The immersive nature of virtual reality meshes well with the learning styles of adult practitioners and promises to be a powerful tool for both pediatric cardiologists and the patients with whose care they are entrusted. Though additional studies are clearly needed, this technology promises to improve the field's ability to prepare providers and patients alike for challenge of treating congenital heart disease.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/HCO.0000000000000694

    View details for PubMedID 31644471

  • THE DEVELOPMENT AND EFFICACY OF A PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGY FELLOWSHIP ONLINE PREPARATORY COURSE Motonaga, K., Sacks, L., Olson, I., Balasubramanian, S., Chen, S., Peng, L., Feinstein, J., Silverman, N., Hanley, F., Axelrod, D., Krawczeski, C., Ceresnak, S. ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC. 2018: 2622
  • Advances in Pediatric Cardiology Boot Camp: Boot Camp Training Promotes Fellowship Readiness and Enables Retention of Knowledge. Pediatric cardiology Ceresnak, S. R., Axelrod, D. M., Sacks, L. D., Motonaga, K. S., Johnson, E. R., Krawczeski, C. D. 2017


    We previously demonstrated that a pediatric cardiology boot camp can improve knowledge acquisition and decrease anxiety for trainees. We sought to determine if boot camp participants entered fellowship with a knowledge advantage over fellows who did not attend and if there was moderate-term retention of that knowledge. A 2-day training program was provided for incoming pediatric cardiology fellows from eight fellowship programs in April 2016. Hands-on, immersive experiences and simulations were provided in all major areas of pediatric cardiology. Knowledge-based examinations were completed by each participant prior to boot camp (PRE), immediately post-training (POST), and prior to the start of fellowship in June 2016 (F/U). A control group of fellows who did not attend boot camp also completed an examination prior to fellowship (CTRL). Comparisons of scores were made for individual participants and between participants and controls. A total of 16 participants and 16 control subjects were included. Baseline exam scores were similar between participants and controls (PRE 47 ± 11% vs. CTRL 52 ± 10%; p = 0.22). Participants' knowledge improved with boot camp training (PRE 47 ± 11% vs. POST 70 ± 8%; p < 0.001) and there was excellent moderate-term retention of the information taught at boot camp (PRE 47 ± 11% vs. F/U 71 ± 8%; p < 0.001). Testing done at the beginning of fellowship demonstrated significantly better scores in participants versus controls (F/U 71 ± 8% vs. CTRL 52 ± 10%; p < 0.001). Boot camp participants demonstrated a significant improvement in basic cardiology knowledge after the training program and had excellent moderate-term retention of that knowledge. Participants began fellowship with a larger fund of knowledge than those fellows who did not attend.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00246-016-1560-y

    View details for PubMedID 28161811

  • Toddler With Hemoptysis. Clinical pediatrics McClary, A. C., Sacks, L. D., Purohit, P. J., Hussain, E. 2017: 9922816684618-?

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0009922816684618

    View details for PubMedID 28084086

  • Regulation of myosin expression during myotome formation DEVELOPMENT Sacks, L. D., Cann, G. M., Nikovits, W., Conlon, S., Espinoza, N. R., Stockdale, F. E. 2003; 130 (15): 3391-3402


    The first skeletal muscle fibers to form in vertebrate embryos appear in the somitic myotome. PCR analysis and in situ hybridization with isoform-specific probes reveal differences in the temporal appearance and spatial distribution of fast and slow myosin heavy chain mRNA transcripts within myotomal fibers. Embryonic fast myosin heavy chain was the first isoform expressed, followed rapidly by slow myosin heavy chains 1 and 3, with slow myosin heavy chain 2 appearing several hours later. Neonatal fast myosin heavy chain is not expressed in myotomal fibers. Although transcripts of embryonic fast myosin heavy chain were always distributed throughout the length of myotomal fibers, the mRNA for each slow myosin heavy chain isoform was initially restricted to the centrally located myotomal fiber nuclei. As development proceeded, slow myosin heavy chain transcripts spread throughout the length of myotomal fibers in order of their appearance. Explants of segments from embryos containing neural tube, notochord and somites 7-10, when incubated overnight, become innervated by motor neurons from the neural tube and express all four myosin heavy chain genes. Removal of the neural tube and/or notochord from explants prior to incubation or addition of d-tubocurare to intact explants prevented expression of slow myosin chain 2 but expression of genes encoding the other myosin heavy chain isoforms was unaffected. Thus, expression of slow myosin heavy chain 2 is dependent on functional innervation, whereas expression of embryonic fast and slow myosin heavy chain 1 and 3 are innervation independent. Implantation of sonic-hedgehog-soaked beads in vivo increased the accumulation of both fast and slow myosin heavy chain transcripts, as well as overall myotome size and individual fiber size, but had no effect on myotomal fiber phenotype. Transcripts encoding embryonic fast myosin heavy chain first appear ventrolaterally in the myotome, whereas slow myosin heavy chain transcripts first appear in fibers positioned midway between the ventrolateral and dorsomedial lips of the myotome. Therefore, models of epaxial myotome formation must account for the positioning of the oldest fibers in the more ventral-lateral region of the myotome and the youngest fibers in the dorsomedial region.

    View details for DOI 10.1242/dev.00541

    View details for Web of Science ID 000184830700004

    View details for PubMedID 12810587