In the Spotlight: Michael Recto, M.D.

As an internationally-recognized expert in interventional pediatric cardiology, and division chief of cardiology, CHOC Children’s Specialists, Dr. Michael Recto’s goal is to provide world-class cardiac care. He treats children with serious congenital heart defects, and performs both diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization procedures.

Dr. Michael Recto

Prior to coming to CHOC, Dr. Recto served as both chief of pediatric cardiology and director of cardiac catheterization at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans. Previously, he was chief of pediatric cardiology and director of inpatient transplant services at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville.

Dr. Recto takes great pride in having worked throughout his career with some of the top cardiologists in the field. When he joined the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute in 2013, he witnessed the same level of talent and knew instantly he was in the right place, he says.

“Everyone on the CHOC team is an expert in their field. We have experts in echocardiography (fetal, transthoracic and transesophageal echo), cardiac MRI, electrophysiology and cardiac intensive care. I am proud to be part of such a talented team,” he says.

Dr. Recto enjoys spending time in CHOC’s state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization laboratorities, where he is able to diagnose problems and if needed, perform an intervention and help a patient right on the spot, he explains.

Dr. Recto is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric cardiology. He attended medical school at University of the Philippines College of Medicine, followed by a pediatric internship and residency at New York University Medical Center in New York City. He completed a pediatric cardiology fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and a pediatric interventional cardiology senior fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, under the tutelage of Dr. Charles E. Mullins, known as the Father of Modern Interventional Pediatric Cardiology.

In addition, Dr. Recto is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and a fellow of the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions (SCAI), among other professional organizations. He has co-authored numerous articles in publications such as Pediatrics, Pediatric Cardiology, and Journal of the American College of Cardiology, to name a few.

Long before Dr. Recto was treating serious heart conditions, however, he thought of becoming an engineer or architect.  His mother asked if he had ever considered a career in medicine. Although unsure about this career path, he decided to give it a try. After his first semester as a pre-med student, Dr. Recto felt that he had never studied as much in his life, he says jokingly, and decided he better continue the hard work he had started. He was eventually accepted to the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, where only a small number of students are accepted every year.  The young doctor was first exposed to pediatric patients during his rotating internship at the Philippine General Hospital, where patients with some of the most complex clinical problems are sent for care.  That experience solidified his passion for pediatrics.

Today, Dr. Recto’s approach to delivering care is to treat his patients and their families the same way he would like his family to be treated. He has learned a lot from his patients and their families along the way, and is still surprised at the touching moments he experiences on a daily basis.

“I had a patient just the other day with an atrial septal defect and I explained to this child’s family that this particular hole between the two atria was going to be hard to close. The patient would possibly require open-heart surgery,” Dr. Recto says. “The patient’s father looked at me and said, ‘We have a lot of faith in you.’ I was indeed able to close the defect in the cath lab. When I came out of the procedure and told the entire family the good news, they stood up and applauded and the father gave me a big hug. I was not expecting that. A moment like that is one of the best things you can experience. It was truly gratifying and humbling.”

When Dr. Recto is not caring for patients at CHOC, he enjoys spending time with his wife, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at CHOC, and their three grown children. He and his wife enjoy eating out and traveling.  Dr. Recto is also an avid tennis player.

Dr. Recto is open to questions from community physicians, and encourages physicians to call him or use Pingmd. To contact him, or to refer a patient, please call 714-509-3939.

Ryan Hansen Named Director, CHOC Children’s Heart Institute

Following a nationwide search, Ryan Hansen has been named director of the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute. In his new role, Ryan will work closely with hospital and physician leaders to advance strategies designed to make the Heart Institute a leading destination for pediatric and adolescent cardiovascular care.

“CHOC is clearly an organization on the rise with a talented medical staff, engaged employees and a very supportive executive leadership team dedicated to the hospital’s mission and vision. I look forward to bolstering CHOC’s excellent cardiovascular services, including embracing innovation and new technologies to better serve the children and families in our community and beyond,” said Ryan.

Ryan joins CHOC from Texas-based Memorial Hermann Health System, where he served as director, hospital operations, Heart & Vascular Institute.  During his six-year tenure there, he launched the Advanced Heart Failure, Heart Transplant and Lung Transplant Program, which has become the second largest transplant program in Texas and 13th largest in the nation.  Under Ryan’s leadership, the program developed into the top implanting center in Texas for transcatheter aortic valve replacements (TAVR) and total artificial hearts (TAH), while maintaining quality with clinical outcomes superior to national averages.  Additionally, Ryan was instrumental with the construction of the flagship, multidisciplinary advanced heart failure clinic and network of five cardiology clinics.

Prior to Memorial Hermann Health System, Ryan was the administrative director for the division of cardiology and heart failure at Baylor College of Medicine in the Texas Medical Center with responsibilities for the academic, research and clinical missions.  Ryan also served as a project manager in the institution with a focus on physician revenue cycle optimization and new EMR implementation.  He bridged the practice of medicine and the business of medicine to increase practice profitability and efficiency for the college.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from The University of Texas at Austin, Ryan completed the dual master’s degree program (MBA/MHA) at University of Houston Clear Lake.  He currently resides in south Orange County with his wife and three young children.

“I am very excited to be in Southern California and to have the opportunity to partner with CHOC’s talented and highly-skilled medical staff to advance education, research and evidence-based medicine practices for the Heart Institute.  In addition to playing a vital role in preventive cardiology and improving the cardiovascular health of Orange County children, CHOC will be the healthcare provider of choice for advanced cardiac therapies,” stated Ryan.

Ryan can be reached at rhansen@choc.org.

CHOC Children’s Expands Fetal Cardiology Program

Approximately 1 percent, or 40,000, babies in the United States are born with a congenital heart disease each year. That’s almost 5,000 babies in California alone. In order to catch problems as early as possible, fetal cardiology specialists at the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute work with pregnant women to evaluate, diagnose and manage babies in utero who may be at risk for congenital heart defects, heart failure or rhythm disturbances.

CHOC offers the only comprehensive fetal cardiology services in Orange County, and our team has advanced training in fetal echocardiography, fetal magnetic resonance imaging, electrophysiology and genetics.

“Fetal echocardiography is a powerful tool that helps identify significant abnormalities and allows for family, delivery and interventional planning as necessary,” says Wyman Lai, MD, who recently joined CHOC from Columbia University in New York to lead CHOC’s non-invasive cardiac imaging program.

Fetal cardiac imaging is performed using ultrasound machines with the highest resolution imaging available, including 2D and Doppler analysis, as well as 3D technology. This allows us to perform first trimester screening so that patients can be referred at the earliest stages of pregnancy.

CHOC board-certified cardiologists perform fetal echocardiograms in their offices to help detect heart abnormalities before birth. At the time of appointment, patients receive a comprehensive diagnosis and care plan. Depending on the child’s condition, referrals to other experts, such as cardiac interventionalistscardiac electrophysiologistscardiac surgeons and heart failure specialists will be provided as needed. Early intervention improves the chance of survival after delivery for babies with severe defects.

Who Should Have a Fetal Echocardiogram

Pregnancies may be at risk for congenital heart disease for a variety of reasons.

Fetal risk factors include:

  • An abnormal appearing heart
  • Abnormal heart rate or arrhythmia on routine screening ultrasound
  • Aneuploidy (chromosomal abnormality)
  • Increased nuchal translucency thickness at first trimester evaluation
  • Noncardiac fetal structural abnormalities
  • A two-vessel umbilical cord
  • Identical twins
  • Fluid accumulation in the fetus.

Maternal risk factors include:

  • Maternal diabetes, lupus or other systemic disease that involves the heart
  • First-trimester use of known teratogens
  • Assisted reproduction technology
  • Maternal congenital heart disease.

Familial risk factors include:

  • A history of a previous child being born with a heart defect
  • The father being born with a heart defect
  • Other close relatives being born with heart defects or syndromes known to involve the heart.

Fetal Cardiology Referrals

If a pregnant woman is at high risk for delivering a child with congenital heart disease, our fetal cardiology specialists are available for consultation and referral. They can be reached at 714-509-3939, or you can find a fetal cardiologist here in our directory.

Dr. Pierangelo Renella Addresses Cardiac MRIs

A cardiac MRI is an advanced imaging technique that is non-invasive and uses to magnets to help diagnose heart problems, Dr. Pierangelo Renella, a cardiologist at CHOC Children’s Heart Institute, tells “American Health Journal.”

Using no radiation, cardiac MRIs are often relied upon in cases when standard imaging techniques are insufficient, says Dr. Renella.

Learn more about this imaging technique in “American Health Journal,” a television program that airs on PBS and other national network affiliates that reach more than 30 million households.

Each 30-minute episode features six segments with a diverse range of medical specialists discussing a full spectrum of health topics. For more information, visit www.discoverhealth.tv.

Pierangelo Renella, M.D., received his medical degree from the UC Irvine School of Medicine. He did his pediatric internship and residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Renella has completed fellowships in pediatric cardiology and advanced non-invasive cardiovascular imaging at UCLA and Children’s Hospital Boston.

Get more information about referring patients to CHOC, including referral information directory, services directory and referral guidelines.


Dr. Gira Morchi Discusses Heart Murmurs

About half of all children will exhibit a heart murmur at some point, but in many cases, the condition is harmless, Dr. Gira Morchi, a cardiologist at CHOC Children’s Heart Institute, tells “American Health Journal.”

A heart murmur is a whooshing or swooshing sound made my blood flowing through the heart, Dr. Morchi says. The sound’s intensity, loudness and location can help differentiate between a normal and abnormal murmur, she adds.

Learn more about heart murmurs in “American Health Journal,” a television program that airs on PBS and other national network affiliates that reach more than 30 million households.

Each 30-minute episode features six segments with a diverse range of medical specialists discussing a full spectrum of health topics. For more information, visit www.discoverhealth.tv.

Gira Morchi, M.D., completed her medical degree at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H. She completed her residency training in pediatrics at Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, R.I. and completed her fellowship program in pediatric cardiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center/The Children’s Hospital in Denver.

Get more information about referring patients to CHOC, including a referral information directory, services directory and referral guidelines.