Charity mission: US specialist carries out free minimally invasive procedures in Armenia to close coronary fistulas

October 2, 2019  16:22

About 2% of children are born with coronary fistulas - birth defects in the form of small holes in different parts of the heart. For some, these openings close by themselves, while others require medical intervention, a well-known interventional cardiologist Carl Owada (USA) told Medicine.

It is possible to close the fistulas in the heart during an open operation, but today there is also the opportunity to do this in a less invasive way. As the specialist said, during the procedure, through the artery on the leg, he introduces a special instrument of very small sizes into the patient’s heart; it can be used to close openings in the heart, open valves that open poorly, install stents and do many other things.

The main advantage of this procedure is that patients recover very quickly and can return home the next day, while after an open operation they would have to spend at least 1-2 weeks in a hospital.

Dr. Owada arrived in Armenia as part of the fifth charity of the Armenian Medical Mission.

Last year, he, along with the Armenian intervention cardiologist Karen Zohrabyan, performed this procedure on a boy named Tigran, who also had a coronary fistula. On Monday, specialists again examined Tigran to make sure that he was doing well. According to the expert, Tigran, who is already 10 years old, is feeling well, he has no problems and complications. He needs to continue to take some drugs, but, besides this, there are no other restrictions for him - he can live the normal life of a teenager.

According to Dr. Owada, during his visits to Armenia, he tries not only to conduct procedures for patients in need of treatment, but also trains local specialists, shows them new techniques so that they can carry out such procedures in the future.

On Monday, he and his Armenian colleagues examined 23 patients to find among them those who really needed the procedure for closing coronary fistulas described above. On October 1, 2 such procedures have already been performed, and by the end of the week, Dr. Owada expects to conduct another 6-7 surgeries. All these surgeries are carried out as part of a charity mission - and free of charge for patients.

Most of the holes they are going to work with during this week are about 3-8 mm in diameter. And most patients who have already been chosen for the procedure are children.

What is the danger of coronary fistulas?

As the specialist explained, if the defect is small, fistulas can not make themselves felt for a long time and practically do not affect the patient's quality of life. Bigger fistulas, if left untreated, can lead to the development of heart failure with all the ensuing problems.

Children with fistulas, as a rule, grow worse than their peers, cannot run and play with them - often they seem to lack air, shortness of breath begins. Such children are more likely to get a cold.

A pediatrician can suspect a child with a congenital heart defect by listening to his heart. A cardiologist will have to confirm the diagnosis after a series of studies and examinations.

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