Seeing her patients’ lives improve is what drives Catherine Avitabile, MD, both in her clinical practice and in her research.
“I enjoy taking care of children with complex cardiopulmonary diseases and their families. I want to advance care and help children with congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension live the most normal, full lives possible,” Dr. Avitabile says.
Dr. Avitabile treats patients with a variety of cardiopulmonary conditions, including pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary hypoplasia, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and thoracic insufficiency syndrome — all serious problems that have, in the past, limited the ability of children with these conditions to participate in physically demanding activities.
Dr. Avitabile relishes helping her patients and their families overcome obstacles to achieve happy, healthy, active childhoods.
As a researcher, Dr. Avitabile has made contributions to the general understanding of the physiology of some of these conditions through imaging procedures, as well as investigating new treatments.
“I am active in pulmonary hypertension research in the Divisions of Cardiology and Neonatology and the Department of Surgery, as well as within the multicenter Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Network,” Dr. Avitabile says.
Treatments Dr. Avitabile has explored include not only medicines, but carefully developed exercise programs.
“My personal research program,” Dr. Avitabile says, “focuses on the impact of skeletal muscle defects on exercise performance in children with congenital heart defects and pulmonary hypertension. I am piloting exercise training programs to improve the skeletal muscle, which may in turn improve exercise performance and quality of life in our patients.”
Dr. Avitabile is delighted to be able to translate this award-winning research interest into clinical practice that directly benefits her patients.
“I am most excited by the opportunities to use exercise as an adjunct to pharmacologic therapies,” Dr. Avitabile says. ”I love opportunities to ‘prescribe’ exercise to improve functional status and quality of life in our patients and am excited by the use of wearable activity monitors to track that exercise.”
As an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Avitabile has a hand in training the next generation of pediatric cardiologists.
But perhaps the most important teaching she does is focused on her patients and their families: she sees sharing information as a critical part of treatment, and she encourages their curiosity.
“Please be empowered to ask questions,” is Dr. Avitabile’s message to patients’ families. “Please tell me if something does not make sense. Please ask me to explain it again. That is my job!”
Education and Training
MD - Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY
Pediatrics - Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY
Pediatrics - Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY
Advanced Fellowship in Non-invasive Cardiac Imaging (Transthoracic echocardiography, Transesophageal echocardiography, and Cardiac MRI) - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Pediatric Cardiology - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Pediatric CardiologyPediatrics – American Board of Pediatrics
Titles and Academic Titles
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics - Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Departments and Services
Avitabile CM, Saavedra S, Sivakumar N, Goldmuntz E, Paridon SM, Zemel BS: Marked skeletal muscle deficits are associated with 6-minute walk distance in paediatric pulmonary hypertension. Cardiol Young February 2021 Notes: Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1017/S1047951121000342.
Avitabile CM, Wang Y, Zhang X, Griffis H, Saavedra S, Adams S, Herkert L, Frank DB, Quartermain MD, Rintoul NE, Hedrick HL, Mercer-Rosa L. : Right ventricular strain, brain natriuretic peptide, and mortality in congenital diaphragmatic hernia Ann Am Thorac Soc 17(11): 1431-1439, November 2020.
O'Byrne ML, Faerber J, Katcoff H, Frank D, Davidson A, Giglia T, Avitabile CM: Variation in the use of pulmonary vasodilators in children and adolescents with pulmonary hypertension: A study using data from the Marketscan Insurance Claims Database. Pulmonary Circulation May 2020.
Lawrence KM, Monosa S, Adams S, Herkert L, Peranteau WH, Munson DA, Hopper RK, Avitabile CM, Rintoul NE, Hedrick HL: Inhaled nitric oxide is associated with improved oxygenation in a sub-population of infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia and pulmonary hypertension. J Pediatr 219: 167-172, April 2020.
Avitabile CM, Ansems S, Wang Y, Fraga MV, Kirpalani HM, Zhang H, Mercer-Rosa L, Jensen EA: Accuracy of brain natriuretic peptide for diagnosing pulmonary hypertension in severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Neonatology 16(1): 1-7, May 2019.
Lawrence KM, Berger K, Herkert L, Franciscovich C, Waqar LN, Partridge E, Hanna BD, Peranteau WH, Hopper RK, Avitabile CM, Rintoul NE, Hedrick HL : Use of Prostaglandin E1 to treat pulmonary hypertension in congenital diaphragmatic hernia J Pediatr Surg 54(1): 55-59, Jan 2019.
Herrera A, Vajravelu ME, Givler S, Mitteer L, Avitabile CM, Lord K, De León DD: Prevalence of adverse events in children with congenital hyperinsulinism treated with diazoxide J Clin Endocrinol and Metab 103(12): 4365-4372, Dec 2018
Avitabile CM, Harris MA, Doddasomayajula RS, Chopski SG, Gillespie MJ, Dori YD, Glatz AC, Fogel MA, Whitehead KK : Accuracy of phase contrast velocity mapping proximal and distal to stent artifact during cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. Am J Cardiol 121(12): 1634-1638, June 2018.
Avitabile CM, Goldberg DJ, Leonard MB, Wei Z, Tang E, Paridon SM, Yoganathan AP, Fogel MA, Whitehead KK: Leg lean mass correlates with exercise systemic output in young Fontan patients. Heart 104(8): 680-4, Apr 2018.
Poletto E, Mallon M, Stevens R, Avitabile CM. Imaging review of vascular rings and pulmonary sling. J Am Osteopath Coll Radiol. 2017;6:5-14.
Avitabile CM*, Whitehead KK*, Fogel MA, Kim DW, Kim TS, Rose JD, Keller MS, Fu GL, Harris MA. Holodiastolic Flow Reversal at the Descending Aorta on Cardiac Magnetic Resonance is Neither Sensitive Nor Specific for Significant Aortic Regurgitation in Patients with Congenital Heart Disease. Pediatr Cardiol. 2016;37:1284-9.
Harris MA*, Avitabile CM*, Fu GL, Kim DW, Fogel MA, Whitehead KK. Accuracy and Internal Consistency of Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Measuring Branch Pulmonary Artery Flows in Patients with Conotruncal Anomalies and Branch Pulmonary Artery Stents. Am J Cardiol. 2016;117:1160-6.
Avitabile CM, Harris MA, Whitehead KK. High-resolution, contrast-enhanced cardiac magnetic resonance detects an intracardiac thrombus in a Fontan patient. World J Pediatr Congenit Heart Surg. 2016;7:404-6.
Avitabile CM, Harris MA, Chowdhury D. Cardiac magnetic resonance characterizes myocarditis in a 16-year-old female with Lyme disease. World J Pediatr Congenit Heart Surg. 2016;7:394-6.
Avitabile CM, Goldberg DJ, Zemel BS, Brodsky JL, Dodds K, Hayden-Rush C, Whitehead KK, Goldmuntz E, Rychik J, Leonard MB. Deficits in bone density and structure in children and young adults following Fontan palliation. Bone. 2015;77:12-16.
Avitabile CM, Leonard MB, Brodsky JL, Whitehead KK, Ravishankar C, Cohen JW, Rychik J, Goldberg DJ. Usefulness of insulin-like growth factor-1 as a marker of heart failure in children and young adults after the Fontan palliation procedure. Am J Cardiol. 2015;115:816-20.
Avitabile CM, Mercer-Rosa L, Ravishankar C, Rome JJ, Gaynor JW, Spray TL, Cohen MS. Experience with biventricular intervention for neonates with mitral valve abnormalities in the setting of critical left heart obstruction. Ann Thorac Surg. 2015;99:877-83.
Avitabile CM, Leonard MB, Zemel BS, Brodsky JL, Lee D, Dodds K, Hayden-Rush C, Whitehead KK, Goldmuntz E, Paridon SM, Rychik J, Goldberg DJ: Lean mass deficits, vitamin D status, and exercise capacity in children and young adults after Fontan palliation. Heart 100(21): 1702-7, Nov 2014.
Avitabile CM, Whitehead K, Fogel M, Mercer-Rosa L: Tricuspid annular plane systolic excursion is diminished in patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome after Fontan palliation. Pediatr Cardiol 35(7): 1253-8, Oct 2014.
Avitabile CM, Goldberg DJ, Dodds K, Dori Y, Rychik J: A multifaceted approach to the management of plastic bronchitis after cavopulmonary palliation. Ann Thorac Surg 98(2): 634-40, Aug 2014.
Goldberg DJ, Dodds K, Avitabile CM, Glatz AC, Brodsky JL, Semeao EJ, Rand EB, Mancilla EE, Rychik J: Children with protein-losing enteropathy after the Fontan operation are at risk for abnormal bone mineral density. Pediatr Cardiol 33(8): 1264-8, Dec 2012.
Hui-Yuen JS, Imundo LF, Avitabile C, Kahn PJ, Eichenfield AH, Levy DM: Early versus later onset childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus: Clinical features, treatment and outcome. Lupus 20(9): 952-9, Aug 2011.
Ahmad CS, DiSipio C*, Lester J, Gardner TR, Levine WN, Bigliani LU: Factors affecting dropped biceps deformity after tenotomy of the long head of the biceps tendon. Arthroscopy 23(5): 537-41, May 2007 Notes: *Maiden name.
Whitehead KK, Avitabile CM, Goldberg DJ, Leonard MB, Wei A, Tang E, Paridon SM, Yoganathan AP, Fogel MA. Relationship between leg lean mass Z-score and cardiac output at exercise as measured by exercise cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. Poster presentation by Whitehead at Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance/EuroCMR Joint Scientific Sessions. Nice, France. February 2015.
Posters and Presentations
Tong Y, Udupa JK, McDonough JM, Wu C, Qiu C, Lott C, Galagedera N, Avitabile CM, Anari JB, Torigian DA, Cahill PJ: Pulmonary hypertension (PH) and thoracic cage function in patients with early onset scoliosis: assessment with quantitative dynamic magnetic resonance imaging (QdMRI). Virtual presentation due to COVID 19. Scoliosis Research Society 55th Annual Meeting, September 2020. 2020.
Sun H, Ivy DD, Stockbridge N, Handler SS, Bates A, Krishnan U, Yung D, Hopper RK, Fineman J,. Varghese NP, Austin ED, Avitabile CM, Freire G, Mullen MP: Utilizing actigraphy to measure impact of genetic mutations on heart rate variability in pediatric pulmonary arterial hypertension. Virtual poster presentation due to COVID19, American Thoracic Society, November 2020. 2020.
O'Byrne ML, Faerber J, Katcoff H, Huang J, Edelson J, Finkelstein D, Avitabile CM, Glatz AC, Goldberg DJ: Prevalent pharmacotherapy in United States children and adolescents after Fontan completion: An analysis of data from the Marketscan® Commercial and Medicaid databases Virtual presentation due to COVID19, American Heart Associations Scientific Sessions, November 2020. 2020.
Gardner MM, Faerber J, Preminger T, Avitabile CM, Shankar S, Glatz AC, Ravishankar C, Goldberg DJ: Relationship between brain-type natriuretic peptide and serum growth factors in infants with single ventricle heart disease and shunt- or ductal-dependent pulmonary blood flow. Virtual presentation due to COVID19, American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, November 2020 2020.
Austin E and the Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia Working Group (including Avitabile CM) : Pulmonary hypertension in bronchopulmonary dysplasia - The need for continued outpatient surveillance beyond infancy. Virtual poster discussion session due to COVID19, American Thoracic Society, November 2020 2020.
O'Byrne ML, Farber JA, Kacoff H, Frank DB, Davidson A, Giglia TM, Avitabile CM: Variation in utilization of pulmonary vasodilators in children and adolescents with pulmonary hypertension: An analysis from the Marketscan® Commercial and Medicaid claims databases. Poster presentation by O'Byrne at American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. Philadelphia, PA. November 2019.
Lectures by Invitation
Avitabile CM. "What's New in Single Ventricle Care: Exercise Training for Fontan Patients," Cardiology 2021, 24th Annual Update on Pediatric and Congenital Cardiovascular Disease, National Virtual Meeting (due to COVID 19 pandemic), sponsored by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Feb 2021.
Avitabile CM. "Accuracy of brain natriuretic peptide as compared to a reference standard of echocardiogram for diagnosing pulmonary hypertension in severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia." Oral abstract presentation at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, Toronto, Canada. May 2018
Awards and Honors
2014, American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Research Fellowship Award
2013, Pediatric Academic Societies Travel Award Program for Young Investigators
2007, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Alumni Association Gold Medal
2003, Dr. Robert Joseph Barnet Award to an Outstanding Arts and Letters Pre-professional Senior, University of Notre Dame
2003, Phi Beta Kappa
2002, Alpha Epsilon Delta (National Health Pre-professional Honor Society)
2002, Omicron Delta Epsilon (International Economics Honor Society)
Editorial and Academic Positions
2020-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Pediatric Drugs
2020-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Journal of the American Heart Association
2019-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, JACC: Case reports
2019-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Circulation: Heart Failure
2017-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance
2016-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Cardiology in the Young
2016-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, American Journal of Cardiology
2016-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, World Journal for Pediatric and Congenital Surgery
2016-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Annals of Thoracic Surgery
2016-present, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Endocrine
Academic and Institutional Committees
2020-present, Pulmonary Hypoplasia Program Throughput Quality Improvement Project
2020-present, CDH Frontier Program Quality Improvement Project regarding Length of Stay
2019-present, Member of Edward S. Cooper Leadership Development Program
2019-present, Grant Reviewer, Metabolism, Nutrition, and Physical Development Research Affinity Group Pilot Project Funding Program
2019-present, Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Frontier Program (Hedrick)
2019-present, Committee to establish a Clinical Pathway for Pulmonary Hypertension Screening in patients with Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia
2018-present, Cardiac Center Mobile Technology/Disease Management Committee
2018-present, Metabolism, Nutrition, and Physical Development Research Affinity Group
2018-present, Pulmonary Hypoplasia Program
2018-present, Pulmonary Vein Stenosis Working Group
Leadership and Memberships
Memberships in Professional Organizations
2020-present, Society for Pediatric Research
2018-present, Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Network
- 2020-present, Membership Committee
- 2020-present, Clinical Practice Committee
- 2018-present, Down Syndrome Working Group
- 2018-present, Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia Working Group
- 2018-present, Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Working Group
- 2018-present, CHOP site PI
2013-present, Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance
2019-present, Pulmonary Hypertension Association
2015-present, American Society of Echocardiography
2013-present, American Heart Association
2010-present, American College of Cardiology
Patient Experience Ratings
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