Before the era of paediatric cardiac surgery, the chances of survival past the age of 18 for a newborn with congenital heart disease was below 20 percent.
More than 500 babies are born with congenital heart disease in the UAE every year, with nearly 70 per cent of them requiring cardiac surgery, and more than half of those within the first six months of life, according to statistics released by Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC).
Before the era of paediatric cardiac surgery, the chances of survival past the age of 18 for a newborn with congenital heart disease was below 20 percent. Currently, more than 80 per cent live past the age of 20, according to Dr Laszlo Kiraly, chief of Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at SKMC.
The Paediatric Cardiac Surgery programme at SKMC is drawing close to its seventh anniversary of operation this year. “There is a great public demand for this service, as parents may not be able to take their newborn baby overseas for treatment, which is predominantly surgical and can be prohibitively expensive. SKMC has the only service that is a dedicated 24/7 comprehensive programme for paediatric heart disease,” Dr Kiraly said.
Over 1,800 surgeries have been conducted since SKMC’s inception, treating between 300 and 330 cases per year since 2007. In March 2014, the programme completed 100 surgeries for the year, and is expecting to reach 2,000 overall by the end of April.
The Paediatric Cardiac Surgery team also treats adolescents and adults born with cardiac defects. SKMC’s Grown Up Congenital Heart or ‘GUCH’ programme treats patients who often fall into a ‘grey area,’ between children and adults.
The programme requires special expertise as traditional cardiac surgery for an older person is geared towards the treatment of heart disease associated with ageing and lifestyle, with the focus on the replacement of blocked coronary arteries and damaged heart valves, as opposed to the correction of birth defects at an adult age.
The Paediatric Cardiac Surgery division has the country’s only Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) programme for paediatric patients, which is an advanced form of life support used to treat infants and children in cardiac and/or respiratory failure. It works as a modified form of heart and lung bypass on a temporary basis, and is an alternative to conventional methods of life support.
“The ability to improve the life of a child and enable them to grow up fit and strong is one of the greatest gifts a person can bestow on society and is a skill that demands recognition,” said Dr Abdulmajeed Al Zubaidi, consultant interventional cardiologist and chief medical officer at SKMC.