UPMC Children’s Heart Institute Welcomes New Director of Noninvasive Imaging Laura J. Olivieri, MD

August 19, 2022

The Heart Institute at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh welcomes Laura J. Olivieri, MD, as the new director of Noninvasive Cardiac Imaging. In addition to her role in the Heart Institute, Dr. Olivieri is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Olivieri comes to UPMC Children’s and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine after having spent the last 15 years of her career at Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she was an associate professor of Pediatrics and Director of the 3D Cardiac Visualization Laboratory and Director of the Cardiac MR and CT Clinical Program.

Dr. Olivieri’s clinical work and the focus of her research program have revolved around the use of cardiac imaging modalities, in particular cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, to advance and improve diagnostic capabilities and treatment approaches for a wide range of pediatric congenital cardiac anomalies and diseases. Dr. Olivieri’s imaging research leverages the advancements in 3D imaging techniques and data processing capabilities to develop optimized imaging and display of heart defects, and to design patient-specific tissue-engineered vascular grafts and other personalized 3D cardiovascular models to improve clinical outcomes.

Her prior work has been responsible for creating innovative display options for cardiac imaging and developing important pediatric imaging advances and datasets in the field of cardiac magnetic resonance.

“Congenital heart diseases affect nearly 1 in 100 babies, making it the most common issue we deal with as pediatric cardiologists. There is an incredible spectrum of severity when it comes to these conditions, and the structure we see is largely predictive of how sick the babies might be,” says Dr. Olivieri. “Developing more precise approaches to imaging the heart, with greater degrees of fidelity and detail, particularly with noninvasive approaches, can allow for the development of more personalized, patient-specific approaches to correcting and managing these conditions."

Her ongoing imaging research also entails the use of 3D cardiac imaging to one day develop personalized, patient-specific 3D printed vascular grafts that would precisely match the patient’s native anatomy. Indeed, Dr. Olivieri was part of a multidisciplinary research team at Children’s National that was the first to successfully create 3D reconstructions and models from 3D echocardiogram imaging data.

Additionally, Dr. Olivieri is the primary or co-investigator on several ongoing National Institutes of Health-funded research grants. She is currently the PI of an R01 investigation that is working to develop a lower-risk, radiation-reduced regimen for cardiac assessment in pediatric patients who are candidates for or have undergone heart transplantation to monitor for signs of graft rejection through noninvasive means.

Dr. Olivieri’s R01 study involves using specialized cardiac MR images of the entire heart muscle to determine if the imaging data can identify areas of the heart that are indicative of or depict the sequelae of rejection, and to see if this imaging data correlates with biopsy findings. The study is also designed to assess whether cardiac MR imaging can improve endoscopic myocardial biopsies with better soft-tissue visualization, while also employing a methodology that reduces radiation exposure by guiding hemodynamic catheterization assessment.

Other ongoing aspects of Dr. Olivieri’s research include developing improved motion correction technology in cardiac MR to reduce the time young children and infants are exposed to radiation and anesthesia during diagnostic procedures.

Dr. Olivieri looks forward to bringing her expertise and experience to Pittsburgh to enhance the cardiac imaging capabilities here for all patients who are cared for at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.  She is excited about future possibilities here for radiation and sedation reduced imaging, and building a 3D echo program for a clearer understanding of congenital heart disease and cardiomyopathy.